Students' computer science goal

AFP
Using everyday examples from the high school students' lives during the lecture, Yoshito Kamuro used the exercise to explain computer science to them. 
AFP
AFP

A volunteer from Microsoft Japan helps a student during the workshop. Canvas NPO organizes a workshop open classroom of programing for two students with special needs at Komei special eduction school in Tokyo, Japan. 

Yoshito Kamuro, who teaches students with special needs in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward, asks his class to imagine they are in a fast-food restaurant.

He asks: “What would you do first at the restaurant?” 

“I will order a hamburger,” replies a student quickly.”

“Next?” 

“French fries,” another shouts out.

“Then?” 

“Some juice, too.”

“And eventually?” 

“I will pay.”

Using everyday examples from the high school students’ lives during the lecture, Kamuro used the exercise to explain computer science to them. 

Kamuro demonstrated that a computer requires step-by-step commands according to a sequence of actions that humans usually do automatically, without even thinking. 

His lecture, at the Tokyo Municipal Komei Gakuen Special Needs School, is part of efforts deployed at Japanese schools to make computer science a compulsory subject at primary schools from 2020 onwards.

AFP

Professor Kamuro, who teaches students with special needs in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward, uses step of ordering in fast food to explain programming to student. 

To contribute to this goal, Microsoft, together with a Japanese nonprofit, has established the “Programming for All” project to create an opportunity for all children — regardless of geographical location, economic background, gender and physical abilities — to learn computer science skills. The tech giant encourages its employees to become volunteer supporters at schools under the program.

The teachers themselves often learn a lot, too! During a class called “A Life with Robots,” Kamuro once encountered an unexpected situation when programing a robot. The teacher and students found that the robots often did not move as imagined, even though they seemed to be programed correctly. They solved the problems, however, through trial-and-error, fixing and adjusting the program multiple times.

Learning computer science is to know how systems function and how they support our communities. By understanding programing, children get equipped to explore their surroundings and societies — and to contribute to develop our world with their own new ideas.

Computing is everywhere today, with much focus on the user interface, which constantly evolves. 

Smartphones, which are largely replacing boxy computers, only require tapping instead of clicking. While everyone can use them, most people, however, do not know exactly how they function.

Looking forward to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or the Industry 4.0 era, driven by artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, children need to learn how to interpret complex information to address challenges. By doing so, children will empower themselves to contribute to a better future.

What is the main goal of computer science education? Students who are learning computer science can see the results of their efforts rapidly. It is pretty rare to see bored students during computing classes. At Komei Gakuen, for example, students who tended to be absent are now motivated to come to school thanks to their computing class.

Another advantage is that there are no right or wrong answers. Students learn to ask “why.” Since bugs are common in programing, students gain plenty of experience with trial-and-error. 

“In general, special schools tend to focus on what students can do, avoiding putting them into situations where they would make mistakes. However, in computing class, making mistakes is not embarrassing but rather normal,” the teacher said. By making and finding mistakes, students can learn how to analyze and try alternative methods.

In the UK, computer science education has been made compulsory since 2014, and the experiences and lessons learnt could help Japanese teachers be better prepared when introducing computer science education to Japanese schools.

The Royal Society identified challenges, such as the lack of computing teachers, but also accomplishments, such as setting up teachers’ skills development courses. Thanks to private companies sending professional computer programers as instructors to schools, teachers’ skills improved.

Yu Ukai, who studies computer science education at King’s College London, recommends to make use of locally available human resources. 

Many British schools have so-called code clubs, providing students opportunities to code through this free-of-charge extracurricular activity.

Overall students responded positively to computer science education.

One student said: “Computing is really interesting, and I think it’s relevant to the real world.” 

Another added: “At first computing wasn’t for me. It’s in a different language. But then I got better at it and realized how it can help you to be creative.”

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