Lucy Sanders – the CEO of the National Center for Women & Information Technology – was a key participant in last week’s Microsoft Annual Faculty Summit. InformationWeek has a good summary of the meeting – and the issues – up on the web in an article titled “Funding Innovation Where It’s Incubated.”
The basic message – as stated directly by Dan Mote (president of the University of Maryland) is that “”Students do not see opportunity in our field [IT and computer science]. And it’s not just kids in poor districts–even the rich kids don’t get jazzed about tech. That’s going to be a problem as computer companies hunt for the next generation of workers.”
Lucy – who is one of the most insightful and articulate people I know when discussing this issue – added “Part of the reason the U.S. isn’t grooming enough future computer jocks could be that the discipline mystifies lots of kids. Computer science is a stealth profession – no one really knows what we do. Instead of teaching how computers can help solve practical problems, schools’ coursework couches things in terms of technologies – Java and C vs. business and medicine. That’s just the wrong way to approach it, [Education needs to get] away from the notion that computing equals programming.”
Google is having a similar summit in a few days. I’m glad major software companies are thinking hard about this and getting engaged. We’ve got to figure out how to get our kids to get re-excited about computer science.