/ Ollivander

Students that don't "get" computer science - bimodality as a teaching failure

There seems to be a common belief about computer science: people either get it, or don't get it.

A recent paper by the University of Toronto, Evidence That Computer Science Grades Are Not Bimodal, dispels such myth.

The paper even suggests some explanations for this myth: teaching failure. We don't know how to teach computer science; so, it seems that some people succeed at learning despite teachers' inability to convey CS concepts.

I think the idea is interesting and very appropriate; I have some opinions of mine:

  • We should make people enjoy computer science! A lot of students get their grades and they can't write ten lines of code! But coding is actually the most interesting and amusing part of computer science, where you can actually do things and see how they work. Let's put more tinkering into CS courses!
  • We should put some effort at making CS cool. As long as people regard CS as boring, they don't take that journey.

Otherwise, we risk an even further split between practitioners, those that learn by doing and that sometimes don't have a formal education, and the academics, that live in the walled garden of universities and have little to no contact with the industry.