Computer Science Education, was Re: UVSC BYU U of U etc

Alex Esplin alex.esplin at
Tue Feb 20 21:13:01 MST 2007

On 2/20/07, Levi Pearson <levi at> wrote:
> I think that my primary idea through this thread is that although it
> is entirely possible to separate theory and practice in computer
> science, it's a bad idea to try to teach it that way, especially at
> the undergraduate level.  I don't think that this principle only
> applies to computer science, either, which was the gist of my argument
> against the supposed physics/computer science difference.

My wife teaches English at BYU and I think she'd wholeheartedly agree
with you (us) there.

> I also think that computer science education should involve a great
> deal of practicality, since solving real-world problems with computers
> is a pressing need.  However, I believe there is a distinction between
> practicality and tool-specific training, which I don't believe is
> within the purview of a computer science degree.  Teaching students to
> be able to apply their knowledge to the use of any set of tools should
> be paramount, and is ultimately more beneficial to both student,
> future employers, and the computing community in general.

This is one of the things I'm liking about my studies at BYU.
Occasionally it becomes quite a time burden to teach myself the tools
to implement the principles taught in the classes.  But, this is a
time burden I usually place on myself as I try to pick up and keep
good programming practices along the way, as well as try to use
features of tools that I haven't used before, etc...  This often has a
negative effect on my grades, even though it has a positive effect on
my actual learning.
> This, of course, completely leaves out the self-taught individuals,
> who may well be the best qualified of all.  I won't deny that for a
> moment, nor do I believe that education requires attending classes.
> It's simply beside the point; I would love for a good computer science
> curriculum to be identified and made available to these kinds of
> self-teachers.  In fact, I've compiled quite a few resources myself,
> if anyone is interested.

I'm definitely interested, as I'm also always bookmarking anything
that appears to be a resource I can come back to and learn from.

Alex Esplin

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