Training vs. education in computing

One of the reasons I’m coming to THATCamp as a computer scientist is to plan for an introductory course in computer science (CS) we will be offering in the Fall, with applications in Digital Humanities. As a liberal arts college, students in all majors have taken our first course (often to satisfy a general education requirement), including humanities students. How might studying CS help prepare students for DH?

I must clarify that my field is more about designing computations than in learning to use standard software or media tools. Many of the postings and comments I’ve seen on this site have expressed interest in training for using those tools, as opposed to the education in design of computations that we care the most about in CS. The principles of CS are the elements of computation that remain relevant as new technologies come and go, and although those principles provide valuable perspective and insight, relatively few people take the time to invest in learning CS as they approach new applications of computation. How many of us professors can put a priority on studying yet another field in support of our scholarly and educational work?

But perhaps we can ask our students to become knowledgeable in those other fields. They can help us to form interdisciplinary collaborations, and they will benefit from the long-term perspectives they gain. I’ve flown these and some related ideas in comments to posts, such as Molly’s Librarian-Faculty Collaboration, John’s Digital Archives, and especially Amy’s Finding One’s Way.

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About Dick Brown

I've taught computer science at St. Olaf College for 21 years, and I supervise interdisciplinary undergraduate research. I'm especially interested in finding ways to apply high-performance computing in fields that are far from the areas typically associated with computing, in collaboration with faculty and undergraduate students in those fields.