Choosing a CS-Zero

A wide variety of CS-Zero programs have been developed.  While they all introduce students to some component of "computer science," they are not interchangeable. For example:
  • Some courses teach 'how to assemble a computer,'
  • Some teach how to use "office automation" programs, and 
  • Some teach how to construct or modify programs, and
  • Some survey types of careers or provide experience assessing application needs, and
  • Some focus on the production of multimedia or programming of robots, and 
  • Some make discrete math and common algorithms tangible activities that don't require devices, and
  • Some use programming to reinforce understandings of math and physics.
Below are a few questions to consider:
  • What is the target audience?
    • Undeclared college students?
    • All freshmen?
    • Students considering study of 
      • CS?  STEM?  Professional programs (i.e. nursing)? Liberal Arts?
    • College, HS MS or even elementary school students?
    • Students with weak math skills?
    • Students delayed from entering cs or other STEM major due to weak math skills?
  • Which CS or IT domain-relevant skills do students need to learn:
    • Able to program or modify programs
    • Breadth (survey? Of what topics?) or depth (of what topics?)?
    • Familiarity w/ computing & computing careers?
    • Familiarity w/ HW, Applications, OS human interfaces?
    • Available academic choices/opportunities?
    • Computational thinking? (which loosely translates into transforming a real-world problem into a procedure that solves it)
    • How to analytically solve a problem/troubleshoot?
    • How to work together in teams?
    • How to precisely specify the characteristics of a problem? 
  • Motivations for offering course (a meta-outcome)…
    • Compensate for deficiencies?
    • Increase
      • Interest in cs/it studies?  By whom?
      • Confidence in ability to understand cs/it?
      • Understanding of some set of technical skills?
      • Retention of students intending to study cs/it?
    • Career guidance
  • Tuning for intended audience
    • Different people are  motivated by different activities.  
    • Projects that emphasize the development of media or dramatic story-telling have increased the interests of girls and women in computation-related activities. However, there is little evidence that these activities increase enrollment or academic success in computer science programs.
    • The career-guidance community has developed a mapping among career characteristics and proclivities, and that they matter. 
This outline was adapted from a discussion at a break-out session from the 2009 NSF/BPC meeting lead by Eric Freudenthal and includes contributions from Lijuan Cao, Hang Chen, Sarbani Banerjee, Anita Iannucci, Dan Frost, Ira Rudowsky, Enrico Pontelli, Joseph Austin, Save Struckman-Jonnson, Ann Q. Gates, and Deborah Boisvert