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Are computer classes in high-school worth it?

  1. Nov 12, 2011 #1
    I'm currently in high school and I'm deciding whether or not to take a computer course such as Computer Science.

    The thing is, it seems like a dull subject (sorry to those who like it, this is just my opinion) involving basic mathematics. My friends have told me it's helpful for university, since many majors such as mathematics and physics sometimes involve computers.

    Since these computer classes are not prerequisites, I think that if I need the computer skills, I'll be able to learn it on the spot. I wouldn't mind taking these classes, but there are others which hold higher priority in my mind.

  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 12, 2011 #2

    George Jones

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    Computer skills are very useful. Whether or not a particular course is useful very much depends on the course content and on the teacher. When I was in high school, I was lucky in that I was able to take two computer science courses from a teacher who majored in computer science at the University of Waterloo. The programming techniques that I learned from him formed a tremendous foundation for further learning, both in university courses and on my own. I strongly suspect, however, that not all high school courses and teachers are good.
  4. Nov 12, 2011 #3


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    I took a voluntary programming course in school when I was 14. That was all that was required to get me started. I proceeded to be an expert coder within the next few years. That is still by far the single most useful skill I have now that I'm almost 30, and I'm *way* more proud of it than of my theoretical physics PhD or academic achievements.

    Dealing with computers is learning by doing; most of the subjects (not only programming) you can only really learn on your own. But that is not a bad thing. I would highly recommend learning programming in high school, because you have much more time for that then than later, and also it is still easier to get your mind adjusted to this kind of thinking. And it is an immensely useful skill to have, if you ever have to deal with anything quantitative. Also, you can do lots of cool stuff (e.g., get the DirectX SDK and Microsoft Visual C++ Express and start making pretty 3D pictures for example)
  5. Nov 12, 2011 #4
    Wow, thanks to both of you. I guess I underestimated this.
  6. Nov 12, 2011 #5


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    Virtually every kind of knowledge work involves computers these days; learning how to make them do what you want them to do (programming them) is now a fundamental skill. Many universities require all their students, even those in liberal arts programs, to take at least one basic computer programming class. Give it a shot! You will learn something valuable, and you might even discover a new interest.
  7. Nov 12, 2011 #6
    Now it just sounds cool, and I'm even excited for it. I guess I'll be taking computer science in summer school. Thanks for your help :)
  8. Nov 12, 2011 #7
    There is an AP computer science class. It covers the basics, but leaves much to be wanted, IMHO. If you don't go into it with a lot of programming experience, it'll probably keep you interested.

    One point I believe is important to mention is that the high school level classes are only a good introduction.The give you the basic knowledge to go on to learn other languages and more complex knowledge (like data structures and algorithms). You won't learn the fun stuff in the class (not at the HS/AP level, at least), you have to do that on your own.
  9. Nov 12, 2011 #8
    The problem with school, especially elementary+high school, is that whether a class is worth taking depends a lot on what teacher you have. I had a terrible CS teacher in high school, so I would never recommend anyone at my school to take his classes. Though I still learned a few things, this was because I met a particularly good programmer in class.

    If you have other priorities, however, it's probably not worth it. Sure, you need some computer skills in college, but nothing you won't be able to learn yourself. Know how to do basic tasks on a computer (sending/receiving e-mail, working with a word processor/spreadsheet, and finding stuff on the internet) and you'll be fine. If you want to know a bit more, search the web for tutorials on building websites or programming (I recommend Python if you're a beginner).

    EDIT: I forgot. Learn to make a presentation on your computer. Though I personally hate these things, you'll probably have to make you fair share of them if you're unlucky, so it's worth knowing how.
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