“The current development of computer science resembles the Renaissance in Italy of the 15th century, ” said Tim Pan, director of Microsoft Research Asia, during a keynote speech on “Interdisciplinary Effect” at the 11th Forum on College Computer Curricula in Tianjin, China. Organized by the Chinese Ministry of Education, the forum, held on November 28, 2015, drew more than one thousand educators from 700 local colleges. Attendees shared their experiences and explored new ideas for computer science education.
Tim Pan addresses computer science educators at the 11th Forum on College Computer Curricula.
Pan believes that interdisciplinary development will enable unprecedented vitality in computer science. This is based on what Jeannette Wing, corporate vice president of Microsoft Research, has called “computational thinking”. Computational thinking uses basic concepts in computer sciences to solve problems, design systems, and understand human behaviors. It covers the breadth of computer science and beyond, stimulating comprehensive and far-reaching impact on industries around the world. In some cases, these developments even disrupt long-held research findings and business models. This upheaval has elevated the importance of fundamental computer education in colleges, where reforms are urgently needed.
Microsoft launched the Industry-Academia Cooperation Comprehensive Reform Program in China in 2014, aiming to introduce computational thinking classes into the basic computer curriculum for college students. The program accepts proposals from all Chinese institutions of higher learning. Qualified submissions are eligible for financial support and receive free Microsoft cloud services. The program has been warmly received by college faculties nationwide; 99 proposals were submitted before the end of Phase I in December, 2015. Twenty-one of those, covering a variety of disciplines, qualified for Microsoft privileges. Following are two examples of computational thinking curriculum.
Learn in play: bilingual teaching in computer science for hearing-impaired students
Perhaps the most unusual course selected for Phase I was the “Art of Computational Thinking”, proposed by Hanjing Li from the School of Special Education at Beijing Union University. In the course, which served more than one hundred hearing-impaired juniors majoring in computer science, Li and her colleague, Liu Hui, lectured in both spoken and sign languages.