28 August 2005

Valuing Conceptual Learning Over Short-Term Application

Posted by Jameson Penn
Edward D. Lazowska, a professor at the University of Washington, points to students like Mr. Michelson as computer science success stories. The real value of the discipline, Mr. Lazowska said, is less in acquiring a skill with technology tools - the usual definition of computer literacy - than in teaching students to manage complexity; to navigate and assess information; to master modeling and abstraction; and to think analytically in terms of algorithms, or step-by-step procedures.
Even within the dynamic field of computer science, merely knowing the tools and competently applying them is not enough. Over time, necessary tools and demands will change, leaving an incumbent employee or student offering little or no added value to the company when the goal posts (or game itself) change. As a result, the employer or instructor is wise to encourage an overall conceptual understanding rather than short-term application.

A competent worker can adjust as needed, apply the necessary tools from one program or system to the next generation.


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