Why kids find computer jobs a turn on

Why kids find computer jobs a turn on

Analysis: Secondary school students have many misconceptions about a career in information technology, so how can they be resolved?

By Karen Nolan and Keith Quille, TU Dublin

Ireland is a strong player in the global IT sector and has done a great job attracting high-tech names to Ireland, with eight of the world’s top ten information technology companies establishing a major presence here. Computing as a career can be financially and personally rewarding, and coupled with prospects in different industries, who wouldn’t consider it?.

But there is concern among industry employers about the inability to fill IT jobs. Even with tech companies realigning their overall workforce and ongoing layoffs, there are so many vacancies right now. Declining numbers taking tertiary computer science courses and low female participation are not really helping the problem.

Are parents and educators subconsciously introducing the wrong idea of ​​what computer science is to our children – and does this inadvertently push them away from a career in computer science? Why do our kids say they don’t want a job in IT?

“I’ve heard it might be boring”, “you sit behind a desk all day, it’s not very exciting”, “unsociable – lack of interaction with people”

Our research with over 10,000 students brings up some of the misconceptions: ‘I’ve heard it might be boring’, ‘you sit behind a desk all day, that’s not very exciting’, ‘not sociable – lack of interaction with people’, “Looking at a screen for too long hurts my eyes”, “Looking at a computer screen for too long is bad for me”, “The mental health effects of staring at a screen for a long time”, “My eyes would get tired” . These are just a small sample of the recurring motifs we were given by Irish secondary school students as part of our research. Our research has also found that Irish students have the misconception that general computer science and computer science are the same thing.

Can parents and educators speak negatively about students who spend too much time on devices and screens, leading students to think negatively about computer science as well? We need to make sure our children see and explore what computing is really about. How do we do that, and make sure we don’t blur the lines between time spent on social media and/or gaming with time spent crafting problem-solving tasks that can show what the area of ​​computing is really like?

Breaking down these barriers and misconceptions and solving this problem is the mission of the Computer Science Inclusive (CSinc) research group, which includes computer science faculty based at TU Dublin’s School of Enterprise Computing and Digital Transformation. We currently run several student and teacher awareness initiatives to promote computer science nationwide, all completely free to students, teachers and their schools.

There is a need to broaden the perceptions of those involved in computer science

One of our longest-running initiatives is an inclusive cyber awareness program that incorporates a large number of schools and diverse student profiles. It aims to address negative perceptions of the subject e it has been provided to over 10,000 students to date, most of whom have never done computer science before.

It is clear to us that there is a need to broaden the perception of those involved in IT and ensure that there are inclusive and accessible resources made available to students. Our research group hopes to encourage both junior and senior secondary school students to participate in both the new Leaving Certificate Computer Science subject and computer science at university level by enabling students to make a decision, based on facts and experiences, and not misconceptions, if that’s up to them.

We have recently started rolling out an immersive online student computing platform called CSLinc in secondary schools across Ireland. The platform consists of several modules to provide students with long-term exposure to computer science and is built on international best practices with several academic and industry collaborators. Funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and the Department of Education, we have already reached over 150 schools and aim to reach more.

Karen Nolan is Professor of Computer Science in the School of Enterprise Computing and Digital Transformation at TU Dublin’s Faculty of Computing, Digital and Data. Dr. Keith Quille is Senior Computing Lecturer in the School of Enterprise Computing and Digital Transformation at TU Dublin’s Faculty of Computing, Digital and Data.


The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RT


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