Professionalizing Computer Science In His 1999 SIGCSE Keynote, Peter Denning called for the a professional rather than disciplinary view of Computing 1. The focus on the phenomena surrounding computation and computing machines is too narrow.
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Professionalizing Computer Science
1. The focus on the phenomena surrounding computation and computing machines is too narrow.
2. The academic organization via discipline should be overcome by collecting all computing departments within a school of computing and forging a common core.
3. The professional world-view, however, transcends the disciplinary world-view, so merely teaching generic computing concepts is not the solution.
Six Assertions Illustrate the Professional Perspective
Computer Science has held that professionals should understand the mechanical (algorithmic) details of a solution else the merits or limitations of the solution will be learned only with experience
To learn about computing and using computing environments today one starts in the middle and moves up or down depending upon the interest in the topic being considered. Even with a breadth-first introduction, Computer Science moves down and builds its view of the discipline bottom up. We learn the components of building solutions before we attempt to solve real problems.
A Professional prospective probably favors a top-down curriculum where problems are the focus and tools and techniques are introduced as they are needed.
The top-down curriculum addresses the interests and motivations of a different class of students from those that computer science usually attracts. It satisfies these students’ need for an immediate sense of accomplishment by using powerful tools first. It offers a stronger motivation for continued study than a mere breadth-first introduction because the student is immediately empowered but can be challenged to gain greater control and refinement.
The top-down curriculum can be real-problem motivated and can teach tool use where the tool exists to solve the problem. Only when the tool is inadequate does the student’s frustration generate the concern for WHY? HOW DOES THIS TOOL WORK? WHAT CAN BE DONE TO IMPROVE IT? In domains where tools are good, students will become very proficient in applying the tool.
The Bachelor of Science in Applied Computer Science needs to be a new degree because its requirements will differ substantially from those of the CSAB accredited Computer Science degree.
This program will not have at its core the training of programmers. Instead, this program will prepare workers who will be focused on critical commercial software packages and their applications
Our goal is to entice the practical student to become a power user and then to transition to what is under the hood. We are also interested in incorporating as much of the content pertinent to industry-sponsored certifications as we can
Revise and extend “user” (non-major) courses
Build a tier of “power user” courses
Modify our upper division “elective” offerings to merge the two streams of students
Offer the “webmaster” and the “network engineer” tracks with other tracks envisioned.
Prerequisite Tree (core courses in bold)
webmaster track & network engineer
101111 Math 201
/ \ / \ /
| / | \ / | \ \ |
| / | \ / | \ \ 330
| / | \ / | \ 415 / | \
431276 / \ | \ / 433437
| \ / \ | \ / |
| / \ |\ \ / 434
382 \ | \ \ /
460 \ |/ 490 335
The transition to a professional point of view will occur in small steps, but the current growth of the computing industry provides a lot of opportunity for computing departments to broaden their purview. The Computer Science Department at LSU-Shreveport has accepted the challenge posed by differently motivated students and demands for new skills and has devised a second degree program which gives a "non-programming" option to students while still focusing on hardware and software. The structure of the new degree anticipates other non-programming tracks which could in the future provide graduates in computer-based manufacturing or e-commerce.
Sharon Tuttle, Humboldt State
Gary Eerkes, WWU
Cathy Bareiss, Olivet Nazarene
Chuck Howerton, Metropolitan State Univ.
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