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Notes for Teachers on High School Presentation Materials


The high school presentation materials are far too voluminous for a presentation in a single high school class period, though this is the typical interaction time for presentations by Illinois Computes personnel. Thus, we utilize a subset of the materials in any given class period. Teachers who wish to use these materials can choose a subset of their liking or spend multiple class periods (further suggestions below). Easy navigation and selection among these materials is provided by way of the navigation menu at the right and/or the breadcrumbs at the top. Some pieces are in PowerPoint format, but the overall organization is web-based for ease of swapping components in and out, while retaining easy public access and navigation. Additionally, some components include links to separate websites that can be interesting to explore.

(In case a presentation needs to be made in an environment where internet access is unavailable, we plan to periodically package most of the materials into a set of files that can be downloaded and browsed offline.)

Presentation sections

The presentation materials are organized in four main sections (with the first two most fully developed at this time):

  • Who Does Computer Science?: This section is primarily dedicated to breaking stereotypes.
  • What is Computer Science?: This section includes information about the wide variety of different applications/disciplines to which computer science can be applied. Also included are fun activities that teach computer science concepts.
  • Are there Jobs?: This section provides information about the strong job/pay prospects for computer scientists based on demand versus supply.
  • What next?: This section provides suggestions for things that students can do in preparation for a computing career.

Sample selection of materials

Of late, we have generally found that starting with a robotics video is a good way to grab students' attention and pique interest. After that, a possible path is to proceed through the materials under "Who does computer science?" in order, but we have typically found the Wordle material to be not so effective and skippable, and it is undesirable to spend too much time talking about the "myths and facts" without interesting graphics:

  • Students can be asked what sorts of characteristics or things they think of being associated with computer scientists, then one can proceed to showing Wordle "word clouds" that help visualize important foci of a document, stereotypes of computer scientists that may be prevalent, etc. Given limited time, we do not recommend fiddling with the list of words and frequencies for the stereotype Wordle or recreating it, but it can be an interesting thing to point out to students that they could fiddle with on their own (and select fonts, colors, and other layout options).
  • The discussion of stereotypes leads into the slide quiz, where students can be "tested" on their ability to identify the computer scientists in various photos. The quiz is often a favorite part of the presentation for students.
  • This then leads naturally into discussion of the first three items in the "Myths and Facts" document; this document also provides a few overview ideas relating to "What is Computer Science?" and "Are there Jobs?". One can be brief on these topics, since there are further sections of the presentation that go into more depth, or one can discuss the topics in a little more depth in lieu of spending much time on the other sections.
Practically speaking, a single class period allows time for substantial coverage of at most one other presentation section. Recently, we have generally been focusing on the "What is Computer Science?" section while making sure to emphasize verbally that there are lots of high-paying jobs and lots of university scholarships:
  • Within "What is Computer Science?", we typically use the CMU Roadshow excerpt but without discussing any of the logic puzzles except possibly the first (wolf, goat, carrot). The excerpt of Jeanette Wing's PowerPoint also shows many interesting interdisciplinary computing applications, but it's hard to find time for more than one of these two presentations.
  • We always like to include at least one of the "magic tricks": number guessing or binary error detection. Generally, there is only time for one. Both of these activities are very popular with students. One often hears "Wow!", "How did he do that?", etc. Students are very interested in learning how to do the tricks and why they work. They often request a copy of the number grids used for the number guessing trick so they can use it on their friends and family.
  • Much additional material on interesting computing applications can also be shown; links for this are being added gradually, but time will not permit doing a lot in any one presentation. Things like Name Voyager and Tongue Vision do tend to appeal to students.
Sometimes we get a chance to spend a little more time on the "Are there Jobs?" section. Currently, this information is encapsulated in a dense page that can make a good handout for future exploration. A favorite item of ours is the article showing that computing-related jobs constitute 5 out of the 10 highest paid jobs from among the 30 fastest growing jobs. (Really, I think I should include biomedical engineer as computing-related and make that 6 out of 10.) It is desirable to at least make some mention that the job opportunities are very strong in computing and that the mathematical and computing career area has stood out strongly as recession-resistant. The "What Next?" section is the least well-developed at this point, but these materials are subject to ongoing revision.

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