Computer Science

Here is what we think computer science means to 11-year-old kids:

  • I have game (or story) in my mind.
  • I can make the computer do my game (or story), and then other kids can play (watch) it.
  • First, I’ll make a funny character.
  • Then I want my character to walk back and forth. But I don’t have a “walk” command. I have to build it. I guess the first thing is to move. How can I do that?
  • I’ll try something.
  • That didn’t work.
  • I’ll try something else.
  • Nope, that didn’t work either. I’ll try something else.
  • YESSSS! That worked. Now I need to face different directions…

Two things are happening here. Kids have whole games (or stories) in their heads that want to get out onto the screen, and they are very enthusiastic about sharing them. At the same time, the process of getting them out — the puzzle involved in putting together commands to get the actions you want — is, in itself, a fabulous game. It’s a game where you take very small steps and get instant, patient feedback from the computer about whether you’re thinking correctly. You can try over and over again, with no penalty or complaint, until you think better. You can think better and better until — voila! — you have made a world of your own design.

Here is what we think computer science means to an adult computer scientist:

  • The same thing.

Computer science is playing around while learning to think. Both of those activities are a great joy. They’re a joy that most students don’t get much chance to experience because, at least right now, computer science is not taught much in most schools. But we teach it here, and we love to share it.

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