Computer science education: Is it really perplexing?

Computer science education: Is it really perplexing?

By Asil Ali

Imagine a world sans Google and you will see your life immediately coming to a standstill; the place would be one where you won’t have any access to the extensive information and increased exposure conveniently available via the internet.

That is the power of Google – a tiny fraction of the products powered by the science behind computers, saving the users a great amount of their precious time.

Indisputably, computer science has affected the entire human race in such a way that there is no point of going back; in order to survive, one has to be at par with the continuously unfolding trends of time.

So, it is becoming mandatory for everyone to receive quality computer education irrespective of what field they have chosen to pursue.

Today, we are evolving towards a more and more computer-dependent society. As a matter of fact, almost every modern technology, whether directly or indirectly, depends on the applications of computer science. From the domain of soft sciences like psychology, political science, etc. to hard sciences like physics, chemistry, etc., none of the disciplines are going to be spared from the amalgamation of computer science.

I believe that universities and other institutions in Pakistan as well as other countries offering degree programs in the disciplines other than computer science should revise the curriculums by bringing together the necessary elements of computer science.

The advent of artificial intelligence (AI), a branch of computer science, in particular has played a pivotal role in changing the dynamics of the professions throughout the world. A New Zealand-made mobile app named Betty is being used by local dairy farmers to replace veterinarians. Farmers using the app are presented with a series of questions, with the response combined with regional farm and weather data to produce a list of the most likely causes of disease in their animals.

Now this is just one instance of the utility of AI, where the farmers who probably have little or no computer education will, firstly, have to get training to make use of the application. The point of stating this is to highlight the necessity of gaining the computer education. The future demands every individual either young or old, working or not working to be highly equipped with modern computer education.

Do you have to be a computer scientist?

Everyone does not need to become a computer scientist, but everyone does need to be exposed to this discipline that permeates every aspect of our society. And, everyone deserves the opportunity to learn the basics and gain skills that will be critical for the future.

Apart from the growing necessity of computer education in modern life and general social context, computer education helps in developing mental capabilities which are required to solve deep and multidimensional problems requiring imagination and sensitivity to a variety of concerns. Programming, which resides at the heart of computer science, is the main process of problem-solving.

No matter what your field is, a course in basic programming will help you better off your logical thinking and the ability to abstract. By being able to think logically, you can better connect ideas together and make your point in a more coherent manner.

Teaching computer science: Is it different from other subjects?

Since the discipline encompasses the processes such as programming and designing solution, it is said to involve logical thinking and mathematical modeling. It is highly efficient to learn by doing. Unlike other disciplines, an effective methodology of teaching computer science revolves more around the practical tasks than the theory and this is mainly the reason why a number of core courses in computer science undergrad degree have a lab session alongside a theory class.

A computer science teacher must need to have certain distinctive traits that distinguish him from other teachers. The first and foremost quality he or she must possess is to be a good facilitator.

What facilitated learning does is it encourages the students to take more control of their learning process. A facilitator is meant to guide and assist the students in learning for themselves – picking up different problem sets, forming their own algorithms, and creating solutions through logical thinking.

The main difference between a simple teacher and a facilitator of learning is that the teachers are the ones with knowledge and expertise in a particular field. They impart that knowledge through a variety of means to their students. Facilitators build on the knowledge base of the group of students to find the answers to questions.

Unlike many other disciplines, computer science is a very fast paced discipline. One can never guarantee that the concepts and practices that prevail now would be there tomorrow or not. Therefore, it becomes very difficult for the teachers to keep up with the continually changing technology in a particular field.

However, if a teacher is a facilitator he will become an integral part of the group of students to solve the problem. This sort of teaching methodology not only encourages the students but also invigorate the learning process of a teacher without affecting their self-esteem in front of their students.

Ultimately, the primary aim of a computer science teacher should be to inculcate logical thinking and problem-solving skills which are the underlying basis of the modern computer education pressingly needed to cope up the emerging challenges of day to day life.

The writer is an undergrad student at the Institute of Business Administration with a keen interest in semantic web and data mining.

This article has also been published in The Express Tribune with minor changes: