“I am excited about sourcing computer science talent from 100 percent of the population. It’s traditionally been male dominated, [with] very few minorities in the field. As it becomes culturally more acceptable for different kinds of people to get involved, I think that the progress in computer science will accelerate even faster.” – Adam Cannon, USA
As today’s college students prepare for careers in a shifting economy, more of them are exploring computer science. And that’s a very good thing, according to computer science educator Adam Cannon. I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Cannon in his Columbia University office, where we talked about the changing landscape of computer science education, and what it might mean for the future.
Cannon is one of the most highly rated teachers at this Ivy League school, known for demanding hard work, and for his fun and effective teaching style. He’s also affiliated with the Machine Learning and Pattern Recognition team at Los Alamos National Laboratory. His Introduction to Computer Science class draws more than half of its enrollment from a wide array of majors – students who are simply curious about the subject, while the remainder are pursuing computer science careers. “When people see what it’s really about,” Cannon says, “they become even more interested, take more courses, and we end up with a lot of computer science majors down the road.”
How does he explain the broadening popularity of his field? “A lot of people in the past equated computer science with programming, and finally that myth is being debunked in pop culture,” Cannon says. “What we like to convey is that computer science is really about problem solving, and that’s why it’s infiltrated every other field.” He also notes that today’s students are much less intimidated by computing than they were even a decade ago.
Cannon hopes this new-found appreciation for his field becomes more institutionalized, both in our K-12 schools and in many fields — like the social sciences — that can benefit from computational thinking and problem-solving. He sees a future where computer science courses are specifically targeted at students who don’t plan to become computer scientists, but who will bring that thinking into whatever they do.
I am excited about sourcing computer science talent from 100 percent of the population,” Cannon told me. “It’s traditionally been male dominated, [with] very few minorities in the field. As it becomes culturally more acceptable for different kinds of people to get involved, I think that the progress in computer science will accelerate even faster.”
Here’s today’s Daily Edventure with Adam Cannon. Enjoy!