The week of Dec. 5 to Dec. 11, 2010 is National Computer Science Education Week in the United States.

This week, I will share conversations and listen to students talk about computer science education. It is always a lot of fun and invigorating for me to hear from our students.

The world is experiencing one of the most exciting technological transitions since the personal computer democratized information technology. Advancements in cloud computing, mobile technologies, search, natural user interfaces, robotics and machine learning are accelerating and creating new opportunities for health, learning, commerce and living. Computer Science Education Week is a time for students to discover how they can participate as producers and not just consumers of computer science.

Today, computer science is so much more than writing code. The challenges we face require new perspectives and innovative thinking. We need students with cross-disciplinary experiences to be successful. As our global and local communities become more diverse, we need students from every corner of the planet to bring their unique perspectives to the table to address our most pressing needs. From producing greater crop yields in remote regions to addressing climate change to keeping kids safe online, computer science flows into all areas of life. Microsoft believes it is critical to equip students with the skills and tools needed to solve problems using computer science.

Beyond problem solving, computer science also creates new commercial opportunities. Over the last decade, we have seen the transformation of the mobile phone into the smartphone and the birth of the “mobile micro-marketplace.” Research studies show students love to download mobile apps, especially free apps. However, the question is whether they know how to develop, market and sell their own apps? Can students do business in the new “mobile micro-markets” of today and the future?

The commercial implications of computer science is a shift that can have dramatic impact on cities and states that have seen a brain drain of their top science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) talent to other regions of the country and the world. In the past, technologists had to move to regions of the country where other technologists were located to be successful: Redmond, Silicon Valley, Research Triangle, Cambridge, Fargo or Austin. The Cloud now enables innovative computer scientists to collaborate and produce from anywhere. This is not only game-changing, it lets new participants play.

As a nation, we have a shortage of STEM-related graduates from our colleges and universities. However, it takes 18 years to develop an engineer – not four or six. Kids can learn to program through reading, composition and math. The earlier they obtain these skills, the better they become. Microsoft believes both the private and public sector should work together to make sure the next generation of learners are equipped to succeed in the very competitive 21st century global marketplace.

I encourage you to take time this week to share with the students you know how computer science can help solve the world’s problems and create new opportunities. You can learn more about Microsoft’s many products and programs that support STEM education by reading this whitepaper. Then, share your stories or needs with us. Together, we can make this week, and every week, an awesome learning experience.

Cameron regularly blogs on education at www.higherinnovation.com.

Posted by Cameron Evans
MICROSOFT U.S. CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER