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The US Economy Needs More "Cool" Nerds 453

Hugh Pickens writes "Steve Lohr writes in the NY Times that the country needs more 'cool' nerds — professionals with hybrid careers that combine computing with other fields like medicine, art, or journalism. Not enough young people are embracing computing, often because they are leery of being branded nerds. Educators and technologists say that two things need to change: the image of computing work, and computer science education in high schools. Today, introductory courses in computer science are too often focused merely on teaching students to use software like word processing and spreadsheet programs, says Janice C. Cuny, a program director at the National Science Foundation adding that the Advanced Placement curriculum concentrates too narrowly on programming. 'We're not showing and teaching kids the magic of computing,' Cuny says. The NSF is working to change this by developing a new introductory high school course in computer science and seeking to overhaul Advanced Placement courses as well. The NSF hopes to train 10,000 high school teachers in the modernized courses by 2015. Knowledge of computer science and computer programming is becoming a necessary skill for many professions, not only science and technology but also increasingly for marketing, advertising, journalism and the creative arts. 'We need to gain an understanding in the population that education in computer science is both extraordinarily important and extraordinarily interesting,' says Alfred Spector, vice president for research and special initiatives at Google. 'The fear is that if you pursue computer science, you will be stuck in a basement, writing code. That is absolutely not the reality.'"

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