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‘Threads’ Computer Science Curriculum Debuts at Georgia Tech

‘Threads’ Computer Science Curriculum Debuts at Georgia Tech

The Georgia Institute of Technology’s College of Computing has launched a new undergraduate computer science curriculum that school officials believe will reshape the direction of computer science education. One of the goals of the new program, which started this fall semester, is to produce graduates whose skill sets will allow them to compete successfully in the global marketplace. Called “Threads,” the flexible computer science curriculum will help students become lifelong learners, thereby maintaining a competitive advantage in the global economy.

“An incoming student at the College of Computing may enter with the desire to start their own company designing and marketing household robots. Some may want to be a game designer. Others may want to focus on the theoretical and mathematical foundations of computing. With Threads, there are almost as many possibilities as there are students,” says Dr. Charles L. Isbell Jr., an assistant professor at the college and a co-creator of the program.

“Threads represents a tremendous departure from current thinking
about computer science education — historically, [it has been] a vertically oriented curriculum whose goal is the creation of students with a fixed set of skills and knowledge,” says Dr. Richard A. DeMillo, dean of the College of Computing. “Computer science as a discipline is an increasingly broad spectrum. Threads gives students the power to select where they want to be in this spectrum and to take ownership of their career trajectories.”

The curriculum includes eight sets ( or “threads”) of horizontally focused skill categories: Computational Modeling; Embodiment; Foundations; Information Internetworks; Intelligence; Media; People; and Platforms. Each of the threads fit within and outside of the computing discipline.

Any two threads can be combined, creating 28 possible variations that can be tailored to the individual student.

By granting undergraduates the possibility of exploring multiple computing trajectories, the  curriculum allows for risk-taking and continual learning for students, Georgia Tech officials say.

“An additional expectation of Threads is the attraction and retention of a broader range of students, including larger numbers of women and under-represented talent, into computing and computer science,” says Isbell, who was named an “Emerging Scholar” by Black Issues In Higher Education magazine in 2004.

This past spring, New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman, cited the significance of the Threads curriculum in an updated version of his best-selling book The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century. Friedman wrote that the Georgia Tech model anticipates that “the world is increasingly going to be operating off the flat-world platform, with its tools for all kinds of horizontal collaboration.”

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