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Abstract

Program and Be Programmed

In January, President Obama announced the Computer Science for All (CS4All) initiative, an effort to provide all K-12 students in the US with access to CS classes. New York City just embarked on a ten-year project to train nearly 5,000 CS teachers and bring CS classes to all NYC public schools. These efforts are motivated by the high pay and prestige of technology careers and the startling lack of diversity in CS. They are also promoted as a means to increase technological literacy. Learn how to code, advocates maintain, and you will become a savvier, less credulous, consumer of technology; as Douglas Rushkoff put it, “Program or be Programmed”.

It is an exciting time for researchers in CS education. There is tremendous opportunity to shape the foundation of a new educational movement. However, some of the claims of CS4All champions are questionable. This talk will critically examine the goals and frameworks of CS4All initiatives, arguing that technological literacy involves more than programming and computational thinking. It advocates for a broader approach to CS education, one that explicitly supports and encourages what Seymour Papert termed “computer criticism”-ongoing critical examinations of technology, understood as a fundamentally human and social endeavor.

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