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Democratizing Computer Science

Abstract

"Why we need to open computer science courses for more students.

A high school computer science class begins with students divided into groups, writing instructions for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. One group of "programmers" goes first, reading instructions to the "computer" (fellow students) for making the sandwich. But a "programming error" occurs: The computer cannot operate because the "algorithm" (instructions) did not specify taking off the lid of the peanut butter as an initial step. Student laughter ensues. Computers are dumb!

The process begins again, with a revised sequence of instructions. But the computer spreads the peanut butter on the table because the algorithm did not specify to spread it on the bread. Whoops and hollers everywhere: Computer science can be fun! All students are engaged."

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