Teachers Explore How to Integrate Computer Science into K-12 Curriculum at UW Conference

8/9/10

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the box, and working in group environments.

“For me, my history classes in particular, because a big part of what I do is writing stories. My job from a technical aspect is writing software, sure, but I got into it because of the creative side—so anywhere I can draw inspiration from,” Armstrong said.

“Everyone has to have the technical aspect, but what really helps you stand out is the creative. For me it was English,” said Crystal Hoywer, a 2002 UW CSE graduate who now works at Microsoft.

“For me it was orchestra. It really helped me learn to have focus,” Eng said. “It’s finding that passion and being able to pursue that passion, and being able to find that same type of passion in the work that I pursue today—know what that end goal is and that that’s the thing that I want, that is what keeps me going.”

“The area of your brain that are weak, those are the ones you should strengthen. For me that was English,” Davis said.

Question: What do career prospects look like for students graduating with a CS degree?

Answer: Pretty darn good, both in terms of the number of jobs out there, and what they pay. According to Lazowska, the starting salary for CS graduates who take jobs at startups ranges from $60,000 to $70,000. The starting salary at larger companies can be as high as $80,000. And, citing the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 70 percent of new jobs in the science and engineering fields over the next 10 years are projected to be in computer science, he added.

“I am very against choosing a major for vocational reasons—you have to find something you’re passionate about,” Lazowska said. “But I have newspaper reporters come to me and ask if students should be majoring in CS, and I say, well, what do you want them to major in, journalism?”

However, it can take time to find a job that you want, Armstrong added.

“The first job I had out of college was unpaid. The second barely paid. I had six jobs before I got to the one I wanted to keep—the one I have now,” he said. “In the game industry there’s a particularly high turnover rate, not because of dissatisfaction, but because people work on a project and when it’s done they decide there’s something else they want to work on.”

Question: What can students do to help prepare them for the job market while still in school?

Answer: Do internships-while you’re still in schools.

“I found out really late that it’s helpful to do internships while you’re in college,” Eng said, adding that after graduation she had a hard time pinning down a job. She started building up her resume and application experience by working part-time at a local startup, participating in a six-month internship at Intel in California, and interviewing numerous times for local companies. “By the third time I interviewed at Amazon, I got the job.”

Question: How can teachers break through the misconceptions and get students interested and excited about taking CS classes in school?

Answer: Be creative in the way you market the class to students. Design flashy fliers that talk less about computer science, and more about the fun and varying applications of CS that will appeal to students’ individual interests.

“It’s all about advertising and branding,” Eng said. “Finding that passion—that’s the key thing.”

Thea Chard is a correspondent for Xconomy Seattle. You can e-mail her at theachard@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/theachard. Follow @

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