“Make it matter” by addressing misconceptions students have about the field that may prevent them from taking computing courses or pursuing a career in computer science. Many students have overly narrow ideas of what computing is about, what the work is like, and the kinds of people who typically do it. Address these misconceptions by illustrating the diversity and breadth of work a computer scientist can do--and who can do it--and emphasizing that success comes from practice. Discuss the advantages and rewards of computing careers.

Some suggestions

Show how computer scientists make a difference. Many students want careers where they can "make a difference." Help your students see that the problems computer scientists tackle can have important social, economic, and cultural impacts.

Show the diversity of work that computer scientists do. Talk to students about the range of jobs they can find in computing, including the diversity they will find in the type of environment, job tasks, required skills, and the level of collaboration needed.

Show the diversity of who computer scientists are. Expand students' ideas about who does computer science by using examples that include diverse people doing computing, and bring in speakers or use videos that show diverse people in computing.

Examples from the collection

  • Strings, Functions and Bioinformatics

    In this pair programming assignment, students work with several DNA-based problems as an introduction to bioinformatics, to familiarize students to strings. Students analyze reverse complements, find palindromes, convert DNA sequences to amino acid sequences, and compute GC-percentages. Each of these problems help students gain practice with different aspects of functionality with strings. This assignment is ideal for students that want an extended example to gain practice working with strings.

    Engagement Excellence
  • Searching in Hi-Lo - CS1 First Day on Algorithm Design & Analysis

    This is a team-based classroom activity using Process-Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning. I use this the first day of CS1, and sometimes the first week of CS2 (depending on students). Teams of 3-4 students work together to identify and evaluate several strategies (algorithms) to solve a Hi-Lo number guessing game. In doing so, they learn about tradeoffs between difficulty and efficiency, and are introduced to complexity analysis, although the activity does not use O() notation.

  • Recitation 1: Getting used to Java syntax (or, "Concise Guide to Java-ish for Tourists in Javaland")

    In this tutorial, students work individually to explore the basic concepts of statements, sequence, and methods. Using pseudocode and various scenarios (such as making a milkshake, getting money from a cash machine, and doing laundry), students must examine the basic principles for creating a sequence of actions and then generate their own example. This activity is excellent for introducing the concept of sequences and statements to a student with no background in computer programming.