What parent wouldn't want their kids to attend Harvard? Sure, it is one of the most difficult schools to get into. Harvard has one of the lowest acceptance rates in the country at only 5.9%. It also costs a small fortune (even with financial aid) to earn a degree there. Consider that a Harvard education may cost more than your house. And not everyone is able to pull off sweater vests and pronounce their alma mater as "Haaaahvad". So you can imagine my surprise when I found that Harvard offers a free (yes, I said "FREE") course online for Computer Science.
As a technology professional and parent of a 10-year old boy and 13-year old girl, I would love for my kids to show an interest in Computer Science. Let's face it, they are rarely far from their laptops, iPads, iPhones, iPods, and other technology. They should at least have a fair understanding of how those devices work. My son, Christopher, is a science junky. He is inquisitive about everything and wants to understand how things work. He hasn't quite figured it out yet, but he just enjoys learning. My daughter, Sarah, is another story. She is content with how the world works. How does a light work? Who cares? She just knows that she can flip a switch and it works. She will leave the science of how things work for Christopher as she focuses on her passions of art and music.
Trying to leverage Christopher's love for learning and even greater desire to be rich someday, I challenged him to enroll in Harvard's CS50 Introduction to Computer Science. He was a bit hesitant at first, but once he considered the possibilities of writing his own iPhone app someday, he was ready to get started. To my surprise, Sarah overheard our conversation and expressed extreme interest in enrolling herself. Her motivation was not knowledge or visions of future programming success. She merely wanted to be able to tell her friends that she has taken a college course at Harvard. Even our children recognize the name as a prestigious university worth bragging about. Now she just needs to practice how she pronounces it.
Over the next several weeks, I will provide updates on how the kids are performing in the course. I will document their successes and challenges along the way. I will try to capture their aha moments and will hopefully be able to encourage them to stick with the course until the very end. No one believes that any Harvard course will be easy, especially not for two kids who are still in elementary and middle school. But I know that when my kids set their minds to something, they can accomplish anything.
For those of you who would like to check out the course for yourself…