The myriad applications of computer science pervade and underpin our lives to an extent unimaginable only a few years ago; indeed to such an extent that it is now difficult to imagine how modern society could function in their absence.
At Gresham’s Computer Science (CS) is an option at GCSE, A-level and IB, and its study can open up a vast range of interesting and rewarding careers for young people. CS develops the logical and analytical skills required for “algorithmic thinking”, as well as the problem solving skills of abstraction and decomposition, and such computational thinking skills are highly sought after at the cutting edge of financial technology, artificial intelligence, robotics, engineering, “big data”, the rapidly developing field of virtual reality and across numerous fields of business.
Learning to program is a key aspect of developing these skills and pupils tackle a wide range of problems during their studies, principally using the Python programming language. With a straightforward syntax well suited to beginners yet powerful enough to accomplish the most complex tasks, Python is widely used in business and academia, and the language of choice for data science and machine learning applications. In the new Dyson Building pupils not only have the opportunity to explore machine learning within our robotics lab, but also to develop their own applications in our two “state of the art” computing labs wherein pupils each have their own twin-monitor workstation, as well as access to our own extensive range of bespoke online learning tools developed specifically for teaching CS to Gresham’s pupils.
In two seminal lectures during the very early years of the development of computers, C.P. Snow and Alan Perlis, one of the founders of the discipline of computer science, argued powerfully for the educational importance of teaching young people about algorithms, not only to gain the benefits of study of this intellectual discipline in its own right but also in order to develop young people’s ability to play a full and active part in a society where computational algorithms would assume an ever greater role. Their arguments, delivered over 50 years ago, were unusually prescient at the time but today, in a world organised via companies such as Google and Facebook and where one’s own personal information and behaviour has a commercial value, they would seem self-evident.
Both challenging and intellectually satisfying, Computer Science offers its students what Seymour Papert, former Professor of Education at MIT and a leading figure in the development of both artificial intelligence and the beginners’ programming language Scratch, described as “hard fun”.