Computer Science At Conard
By: Ryan Lafferty
In the modern era, computers are everywhere, and they have come to play crucial roles in our daily lives. Some last-minute holiday shopping? There’s Amazon for that! Confused on that math assignment? There’s Khan Academy for that! Interested in tomorrow’s weather forecast? There’s Google for that! Digital technologies have irreversibly and irrevocably changed the way we live our lives – and for the most part, for the better.
Yet even in a world where our reliance on and affection for technology is nearly unparalleled, our willingness to embrace computer science in educational environments – the basis for everything from applications like Snapchat filters, Google searches, and video games to devices like televisions and smartphones – has not kept pace with the rapid and exciting developments of modern technology.
Nationally, just 4% of high school students take a course in computer science or computer technology during the course of their secondary education, according to a 2019 report from the University of Texas at Austin. In many high schools, computer science opportunities are limited, and still have great room to grow. In Indiana, for instance, just a third of high schools offer even a single course in computer science, per a 2017 Computing Research Association study.
So, what’s the problem? Well, for Conard Chieftains, it’s certainly not a lack of opportunity. Conard’s computer science program is remarkably strong. Courses like Intro to Computer Science and Exploring Computer Science allow students to get a taste of the beauty and artfulness of computer science, and other classes, like AP Computer Science, for instance, grant students the chance to explore the intricacies and nuances of important computational questions and investigate the fundamentals of programming languages like Java. And the opportunities continue to grow: this year, for example, a new computer science class – Cryptography and Cybersecurity – was launched to help give students an appreciation for the importance of cryptographic concepts, like data encryption, and how they can help us to be more secure and more connected in the modern era.
If access to CS opportunities isn’t the problem, then what is? Many students worry that computer science seems to be “scary” or “intimidating.” But as Edsger Dijkstra, a famous software engineer of the 20th century, once said, “computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes.” There’s nothing scary or intimidating about computer science once you get involved. In fact, what makes computer science beautiful is that it is far less of a science than it is an artform, and it’s much less about computers than it is about problem solving, teamwork, and creative thinking. The vast majority of problems that “computer scientists” tackle aren’t problems about “computers” or “science” – rather, they are problems about people, data, and information of all sorts, and they are problems that require creativity, inventiveness, and outside-of-the-box thinking to solve.
In other words, computer science is whatever you make of it. For artists, computer science can be an artform of creativity and an outlet for passion. For mathematicians, computer science can be a rich concoction of mathematical beauty and a platform for imagination. Ultimately, for everyone, computer science can be a way to connect more closely with the digital world around us.
Some people worry that computer science just isn’t for them. But almost all of us are already computer scientists, just not in ways you might normally consider! Whenever you use digital technologies – whether checking your social media page or texting a friend or submitting a digital assignment – you are already doing half the job of a computer scientist: applying skills you previously developed to interact with a computing device to accomplish some task, like communicating with a classmate. Computer science might not be for you, but the only way to find out is by giving it a try.
As course selection season approaches, take a moment to consider the value of computer science. Conard has a wide variety of CS offerings, and taking advantage of these opportunities will yield immense benefits – both now and in the future.