Roberts on Making Computer Science Fun Again, 4pm 4/24, ITE 213

April 23rd, 2008

Professor Eric Roberts of Stanford will talk tomorrow (4:00pm Thur 24 April, 231 ITE) on Rediscovering the Passion, Beauty, Joy, and Awe: Making Computing Fun Again. He’s well known as a master teacher and his his insights into teaching computer science will well worth hearing. Here is the abstract for his talk.

Has anyone considered the possibility that it’s just not fun any more? — Don Knuth, October 2006

Over the last five years, computing education in most developed countries has faced a seeming paradox: despite projections that the field offers tremendous employment opportunities and extraordinary growth potential for the foreseeable future, student interest in pursuing computing degrees has plummeted. In response, many educators have called for a massive overhaul of computing curricula to increase its attractiveness to students. In this talk, I argue that such efforts are misdirected in that they fail to respond to the underlying causes of the enrollment decline, which are the following:

  • Fears about the long-term economic stability of employment in the computing industry continue to have a profound effect on student interest in our discipline.
  • The kind of exposure students get to computing at the elementary and secondary level tends to push people away from the discipline long before they reach the university.
  • The image of work in the field — and, more importantly, all too much of the reality of work in the field — is unattractive to most students and no longer seems fun, particularly in comparison to other opportunities that bright students might pursue.

I will conclude the talk with suggestions as to what universities, schools, industry, and government can do to address this problem.