Well, it’s back to sitting in front of my laptop finally, after a well-deserved vacation away from it. In the last month or so, I thought a lot about what it means to graduate and apply for your “first” job. (Of course, in my case, it means applying for my first librarian position). As a matter of fact, I realized from various pieces of information and input from my colleagues that graduating from library school (or any other way you want to call it) does not mean you will necessarily end up in a public library. The classes that were given at the Haute Ecole de Gestion de Genève, University of Applied Sciences, do not stick in the traditional library school curriculum. In the last semester, a part of us delved deeper into the XML language, information security principles and UML modeling…. and it got me thinking…
Since I can remember, I’ve always had a knack for figuring things out easily, quickly grasp complex concepts and break them down to basics. This was very helpful in computer science classes in high school and in university. I’ve been giving a lot of thought about going back to school (yes, indeed) and teaching computer science to kids…. but is it still relevant? So, if you’re still with me, I want to ask the question : Do traditional computer science classes have any future in a digital world where you don’t need to pull a machine apart to understand how it works (or how to make it work) ? I am not talking about advanced computer science and programming classes but your basic computer class in, let’s say, high school or college. I saw, in my first year of librarian school, that some of my colleagues knew how to use a computer for primary functions : send emails, surf the web, write a report, etc. But they didn’t know how it worked inside it ; so our teacher pulled it apart to show us the components. While that still went well with students aged from 21 to 50 in 2007, I wonder if it’s still useful for students aged 8 to 18 in 2010?
We have seen the rise of web-based applications that allow us to store data online, folders and files, work collaboratively on a project, share pictures and so on… but most students nowadays have absolutely no idea how computers work or how software is developed. They use computers, or smartphones, to go online and retrieve the information they need or accomplish a task that’s needed for their assignments but, as an example, they don’t know what an URL is, how HTML works (basically) or even the difference between “Web” and “Internet”. There are clear misconceptions about computer science amongst students : you need to excel in maths, you spend your day in front of a computer, etc. So, they do use them, it works and no more questions are asked. I find it slightly frightening to consider the possibility that basic computer science classes are doomed to exctinction by lack of…. relevancy or freshness. I’m quite sure that computer science teachers would not agree with me and my point is not to illustrate their lack of competences but in fact to highlight the fact that they are still very much needed in educational programs.
So what would be the solution(s) to enhance computer literacy for the future generations?