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Computer Science is for everyone

 In Courses, Recent Articles, Blog, High School

When you hear the words ‘computer science’, what do you think?

For most people, I suspect that the words evoke the vision of a programmer hunched over a keyboard in a dark office, headphones on, hammering away at a keyboard, generating lines of code that look incomprehensible to the outside world.

Perhaps, you think of hackers, lurking somewhere far away, trying ardently to break into your email or bank account.

And, to be quite honest, those actually are good examples of computer science. But they are just a small slice of what computer science is all about. And more importantly, those stereotypes above don’t even begin to touch on what computer science can be or who can become computer scientists.

See, computer science is for everyone. Anyone can learn to program. But programming is just a small part of computer science.

Computer science is understanding how the internet works and, more importantly, why it works the way it does. There is a fascinating history of solving discrete problems of sending data over wires, going all the way back to telegraphs, that bring us to the internet of today. That history is both fascinating and important to learn.

Furthermore, programming isn’t the only way that computer scientists make use of computer science. In my previous life, I worked with people who manipulated (not in a pejorative sense) large amounts of data in order to come to understandings about real people (and, in this case, customers). They did so with formulae and scripts and spreadsheets, and they are no less computer scientists than those who build apps in java or python.

Because, computer science is for everyone. The gist of learning computer science is that it is a tool. A tool that you can use to make amazing things, but also a tool that can be used to make your life easier. The goal of computer science is to make machines and computers do the things we don’t want to do, and if you learn computer science, you will learn to harness that tool to make your own life better and your work more interesting.

Want an example? Our daughter, who was fascinated by sharks and marine biology, once had the privilege to meet an elite shark researcher. This researcher was the recipient of gobs of data from shark tags around the world. He could have spent his life buried in the data generated by these tags, but instead, with some computer science education and MatLab, he was able to make a computer analyze and visualize the data, so that he could spend his time more usefully and creatively — learning from the data and designing new experiments and hypotheses.

This is what computer science can unlock for any student, whether they will be programmers or historians or marketers. Make the machine do the boring stuff, and you will unlock your creativity for better uses.

 

Benjamin Smith is also known as Headmaster Galahad at OnlineG3.com.  He teaches history, science, computer science, and social science at G3.

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