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Growing interest in computer science sparks shifts in education trends
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2014 13:38 PM

People who have a good understanding of the Common Core State Standards know technology will play a great role in raising future generations of young, bright and capable Americans. Many U.S. teachers already use educational software in their classrooms and often split classroom time into one-on-one instructional sessions with students and small-group work online. The new billion-dolalr education technology initiative started by President Barack Obama and multiple high-tech firms will bring tablets, smart devices and speedy Internet service to schools across the country. Many people are beginning computer science classes, learning from seasoned technology veterans and working toward careers in technology.

Stanford professor uses technology to reach students
Dr. Mehran Sahami, a Stanford University computer science professor and associate chair for education in computer science, knows that technology will shape the way people learn from first-hand experience. He fell in love with computer science at the age of 10 and since then has reached academic and professional milestones some people can only dream of. He earned both his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Stanford University, developed software with late 1990s tech startup Epiphany, and eventually helped raise Google to Internet/tech giant status.

Sahami uses technology to engage his students, conducting real-time demonstrations and introducing computer science news to begin discussions for certain classes. He finds working with students who grew up in the digital age interesting and challenging because the theoretical concepts he brings up in class are actually relevant to his students' lives. Sahami's students see the type of experiences working in computer science can bring firsthand. For the last four years, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has spoken in front of Sahami's introductory class and answered students' questions about programming, the tech industry and computer science in general. Exciting course events like these and others around the country have led to a growing interest in computer science and have sparked a shift in education trends.

Shifts in enrollment
As more students pursue careers in computer science and technology, education administrators have seen a rise in female enrollment. In one computer science course at the University of California, Berkeley, more than half of the students are women. The year before marked the first time any computer science course had an equal number of male and female participants. 

Sapna Cheryan, a University of Washington psychologist, believes that gender-neutral classroom models attract future female programmers. According to a 2012 study conducted by the University of Michigan, middle school girls' interest in math and science decreased when they were introduced to feminine role models in technology fields. Therefore, courses like "The Beauty and Joy of Computing" aim to focus on the interesting aspects of the subject itself, avoid gender biases and attract more women to computer science.