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PhD student seeking more students to do computer science

Canterbury PhD student seeking more students to do computer science in schools

June 18, 2014

A University of Canterbury postgraduate student is investigating computer science in schools to see if all students can get the opportunity of trying out subject to see if it is the right career path for them.

Caitlin Duncan says New Zealand has an opportunity to lead the world in computing education.

``I hope my work can benefit all future New Zealanders. My research is on computer science education in primary and intermediate school. I’m investigating methods of teaching computer science and programming, what concepts should be taught to different age groups and how the subject can be made accessible to all students, teachers and schools.

``I’m working with a Christchurch intermediate school on a pilot study to test computer science and programming resources. It has been very successful so far with teachers and students really engaging in the subject.

``My ultimate aim is for my PhD to produce guidelines, information and resources that would allow any teacher in New Zealand who is willing to give the subject a try, the ability to effectively teach computer science.’’

Duncan has been selected to attend an international conference for young women scientists in Korea next month. The event will provide future women scientists with opportunities to meet and network with fellow scientists from different countries.

The computing industry is growing rapidly and is offering a huge and growing number of well-paid and intellectually rewarding jobs. However there is a national and international shortage of computer science and software engineering graduates.

``Many students don’t consider studying computer science and software engineering because they don’t fully understand what these degrees and the potential jobs involve,’’ Duncan says.

``It’s a common misconception that if a student studies computer science they will end up sitting at a computer writing code and never talk to anyone, when in reality it is a highly creative and social career path.

``It’s a fantastic field for creative people who enjoy problem solving. Good computer science and computational thinking education is needed in New Zealand schools because it will encourage more students to pursue this career path.

``Having access to computer science in schools encourages more students from under-represented groups to pursue technical careers. Lack of diversity is a huge problem in the computing industry and it would be fantastic to have more Maori, Pasifika and female students studying computer science.

``This sector is becoming more crucial to other industries and studying computer science is likely to benefit most students, regardless of the career path they choose.’’

Duncan is president of the university’s Computer Chicks Club which aims to support and connect with women studying computer science at the Canterbury.


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