Computing is many things: a career, an academic discipline, and an increasingly-essential part of daily life for everyone in Canada. Yet, computing (or more generally, information and communication technology [ICT]) is misunderstood: young people (according to a 2009 Conference Board of Canada survey of Grade 9 and 10 students) may not know about careers in ICT.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. From Ensmenger’s article “The ‘Question of Professionalism’ in the Computer Fields” , we learn or are reminded that “throughout the 1960s, computer specialists continued to wonder at the ‘almost universal contempt’ (or at least ‘cautious bewilderment and misinterpretation’) with which programmers were regarded by the general public.”
The CCICT (Canadian Coalition for Tomorrow’s ICT Skills), who sponsored the survey, is behind the careermash.ca website that highlights the diverse and exciting careers available that depend on computing.
Although the importance of computing is being widely noted and enrolments in post-secondary Computer Science are improving, Grade 9 or 10 might be too late to get students interested in computing. Summer camps for young kids, who are enthusiastic when will.i.am extols the virtues of programming in the code.org/teach videos, are a great place to start.
The Computer Science Teachers Association has produced a model K-12 computing curriculum that will need some advocates in each province. There are also a few events you should mark on your calendars:
• CSEdWeek: December 8–14, 2013
• CanCompEd Day & Scratch Day Canada : February 21, 2014
• Science Rendezvous: May 10, 2014
Kids who are exposed to computing increase the pool of potential computing majors who will become the next professionals. It also helps to develop a more technically literate citizenry.
We need professionals who do more than program computers, and understand, and think deeply about the important role of computing in society. In his address to the SIGCSE 2012 meeting , Hal Abelson of MIT asked the audience to go beyond computational thinking to consider computational values and computational actions.
The CIPS Code of Ethics asks us to do the same thing:
1. Protect the public interest and maintain integrity;
2. Demonstrate competence and quality of service;
3. Maintain confidential information and privacy;
4. Avoid conflict of interest; and
5. Uphold responsibility to the IT profession.
We must uphold the IT profession as a means to protect the public interest. Upholding the profession also means that we continue to develop and defend the foundational principles of our discipline – the Common Body of Knowledge for Computing and IT is one way.
I was in Przemyslaw Prusinkiewicz’s graphics lab at the University of Regina in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s when computer-generated fractals were all the rage. Whereas exploring those images may provide an entrée to computing for some, today’s tools make interactive programming routinely available more richly and to much younger people than ever before. Browser-based Scratch 2.0 has recently been released from MIT’s Lifelong Kindergarten group and it allows kids of all ages to do amazing things, including using a webcam for interaction.
What attracted you to computing? Why are you still in it? With whom have you shared your story?