Congress has recently passed a resolution to make the week of December 7th National Computer Science Education week in honor of Grace Hopper’s birthday. To celebrate this event, we asked several scholars about their thoughts on the current state of the field, as well the current state of education in computer science. First up is Thomas H. Cormen. He teaches at Dartmouth and is a co-author of Introduction to Algorithms, the third edition is just out.
Here's a taste, but check out the whole interview here:
What kinds of changes (if any) do you think we need to make in computer science education?
Two things make me feel like an old fogey: seeing surfers off Lighthouse Point in Santa Cruz, and thinking about computer science education. Although it's great that students have their own computers now, there was an educational advantage in the old machine room/batch processing model that I grew up with. Because we got very few runs in during the course of an evening, every run of every program was precious. When my program didn't work, I pored over the listing, really trying to understand what was going on. Today's students tend to randomly morph the program until it works, and when they finally get it working, I'm not sure they understand why. (I will confess that's exactly how I write LaTeX macros.) So there are times that I think, not so facetiously, that we should revert to a model where students get to run a program at most once every 20 minutes. My real answer is not that I think we need big changes in computer science education; it's that I think we need students to have a better understanding of what computer science is. Too many think that it's about making websites, or that being a dedicated gamer gives a leg up in learning how to write good programs. We might have been better off in the old days, when students had no idea what computer science was before taking a course in it, than now, when students harbor misinformed ideas about computer science.
And watch for interviews with Jane Margolis and Joanna Goode, Mitchell Wand, Ken Ford, and Bob Harper throughout the week.