Friday, September 12, 2008

Big Ideas in Computer Science

I'm at a meeting where I was asked to determine the big ideas in computer science. Big ideas are defined as the things students will internalize and remember long after a course is over. An example in calculus is that I remember what a limit is, even though I don't remember how to calculate one.

Here are the four big ideas I thought of:
  • Computer tools are designed and the design affects what they can do.
  • Computers precisely execute instructions created by humans.
    • This would include abstraction – what the instructions look like and how they are translated between layers.
    • It includes algorithm creation and predicting what the computer will do given a set of instructions.
    • It can include flow of instruction.
    • It MAY include programming.
  • Computers are used to solve many problems across many disciplines.
    • Ideally here students would design algorithms to solve various problems such as traffic flow, databases…
    • It would probably include the limit of computing – what problems are computers not good for solving and why.
  • Computing has a role in society
    • Ethics,
    • Use of the tool,
    • History of computing and how society has changed based on computing technology…

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