Marie desJardins and Penny Rheingans, Computer Science, USA TODAY College

Published: Jun 6, 2012

Should computer science be a required course for today’s college students? That’s the question posed by USA TODAY reporter Sonia Su.

UMBC’s Marie desJardins tell Su that, “Being a smart computer user is like being a smart consumer — the more you understand how it works, the more you can benefit from it,”

Su writes, “In her introductory computer science class for non-majors, desJardins said she emphasizes key concepts, one of which is that computational thinking is, as its core, about problem solving, which is useful for everyone.”

desJardins tells Su, “I find that my students often do not really know how to think clearly about a problem, identify the constraints and goals and analyze different alternative solutions,” said desJardins. “Computer science requires you to do all of these things, and to do them very clearly and precisely because computers only understand clear and precise instructions.”

But is computer science fun? Would students enjoy it?

Su writes, “UMBC Professor Penny Rheingans said she went to college expecting to major in something in the social sciences, but after taking a computer science course her first semester, she discovered something she loved.”

Rheingans told Su, “I found computing to be both incredibly frustrating and incredibly addicting,” Rheingans said in an email. “I love the challenge of building something to solve a problem and the satisfaction of figuring out why my creation isn’t working and fixing it.”

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