As STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) becomes popularized as the new hot pursuit in education, computer science has appeared at the forefront of the movement. There is a nationwide shift, backed by Former President Barack Obama, to enhance and solidify the foundations of computer science education from kindergarten through high school.
Why has computer science become such an important player in the STEM movement? As our society sees a shift towards the types of jobs that are available, it is largely the skills needed to fill these jobs that are changing. When asked about the skills needed for the jobs of the future, Tiffany Shlain, filmmaker and founder of the Webby Awards, commented:
“The skills needed to succeed in today’s world and the future are curiosity, creativity, taking initiative, multi-disciplinary thinking and empathy. These skills, interestingly, are the skills specific to human beings that machines and robots cannot do….”
Computer science is uniquely complimentary to the skills laid out by Shlain. As humans, it is our unique ability to think, that sets us apart from the machines we are working with, creating on, and even competing against. Computer science promotes a new way of thinking; it is the science behind solving problems using computers as well as the underlying principles and algorithmic processes of a computer.
The concept of computational thinking can be thought of as our ability to think and solve problems like a computer. Gaining this new cognitive process as a tool allows us to apply it not only to problems that involve computers, but also to any algorithmic or problem solving task.
The beauty of computer science and what is often forgotten when referencing STEM, is its application to the arts. STEM in its’ fullest is STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics. Given that computer science is in fact just a way of thinking, it is extremely versatile and should not be limited to applications in the sciences. In fact, this is what makes it so desirable. The applications, enhancements, and new design capabilities introduced across industries by computer science is part of what makes it so important for every student to begin to master these essential skills.
So, why pursue computer science now?
It’s simple, we’re moving towards a time where there will be no future developments that don’t have a technological aspect regardless of the sector or industry in which the profession lies. Perhaps it’s obvious that a scientist, mathematician, or engineer should be expected to know how to use a computer, but so should an artist, a historian, or a librarian. One of the most renown technologists of our day, Steve Jobs, recognized this: “It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough — that it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing.”
The list of technology and arts collaboration is endless
Apple is just one example of the merging of technology and the arts. Take journalism for example, Buzzfeed has gotten a head start on taking the world by storm and transforming how we consume and think about news. They’ve also begun to create collaborative programs (Buzzfeed Open Lab) specifically for artists, programmers, and storytellers to promote this type of creation. And what about fashion and design? If you’re a regular social media user you can’t avoid hearing about the MET Gala; it was the theme of the 2016 event. This high school student-teacher pair used laser cutters to design these MET Gala accessories.
In every case, being able to understand how to use technology as a tool and a resource is key to not only being successful, but also being able to create new art, products, and technologies. Taking the time to educate yourself about computer science is a key stepping-stone to being able to effectively utilize and create with the technology we have around us.
Also published on Medium.