The State of Computer Science Education

As a technology entrepreneur who is active in the Tampa startup community, I hear repeatedly from other entrepreneurs about the difficulty finding local talent to fill positions which require deep technical skills. The younger people coming out of college just don’t have the employable skills, particularly in iOS programming and web development like Ruby on Rails. These tend to be aftermarket educational add-ons where someone would either enroll in a coding bootcamp like The Iron Yard or teach themselves. Both of those situations benefit greatly from having basic coding skills from which to build. A person with a degree in computer science is not going to learn these skills in most universities. One exception is the highly popular iOS programming course at Stanford.

A student who graduates from high school with a solid basic understanding of coding can successfully go directly into a coding bootcamp and find work as an entry-level full stack developer. This bypasses the traditional career plan of attending a university where costs continue to escalate at a staggering rate. While this could be a great plan for some individuals, it remains elusive due to the fact that less than half of the local high schools offer AP Computer Science as a part of the curriculum. In some cases where the courses are offered, highly qualified teachers are in short supply. Why would an excellent coding teacher accept public school teacher pay when they could double that by teaching at a coding school or becoming a developer in their own right? This is an area where partnerships between industry and public school systems would greatly benefit each other. Industry could mentor students and teachers or even partner with instructors and institutions by offering informational, financial, and/or technical support. In my opinion, partnerships are the most efficient way to mobilize a coding workforce quickly.

On a much broader scale, the need for a basic computer science education for all students is a necessity.  Computing is used in virtually every field. To withhold that basic knowledge puts our workforce at a distinct disadvantage, which, in turn, puts our nation behind. Consider the ramifications of this on a much larger scale like national security. What happens when we can’t provide our own citizens to fill those positions in the military and financial systems?

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Please write to your representatives in support of computer science education initiatives that provide direction and support to our students.

Where is the talent?

In Tampa Congressional District 12, approximately 10 percent of software developer positions remain unfilled. More specifically, for the 9,960 employed developers, there are 985 open positions waiting for talent. The average salary for these jobs is $88,781. Where is the talent?

With less than half of Tampa area high schools offering computer science education, it comes as no surprise that local firms can’t find local talent.

What needs to happen next

Florida is on the right path with establishing rigorous K-12 computer science standards and clear certification pathways for computer science teachers. The course is set, but support is lacking.

Four areas for improvement

  • Provide dedicated funding for rigorous computer science professional development and course support.
  • Offer incentives for institutions of higher education to offer computer science to preservice teachers.
  • Have dedicated computer science positions in state and local education authorities.
  • Require that all secondary schools offer computer science.

In Tampa, please write to Congressman Gus Bilirakis in support of computer science education for all.

Ann Adair
is co-founder of Thinkamingo Inc, a mobile applications development firm, which she co-founded with her husband Jon.  They have two children, one of which is a senior in high school currently enrolled in AP Computer Science.



App Economy Conference

In April, I had the honor and privilege of representing small-to-medium-sized technology companies in Washington, D.C. again this year. This was my fourth year to participate in what is now called AppCon (App Economy Conference), formerly known as the ACT Fly-In.


What is it? About 50 technology entrepreneurs from all over the country come together in DC, learn about important issues that affect their businesses, then meet with policymakers about those issues.

AppCon16 attendees

This year, the main topics were 1) Computer Science Education, 2) Encryption and Cybersecurity, 3) Government Access to Data, 4) Internet Governance, and 5) The Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Monday was spent getting up to speed on hot topics and how they affect our businesses. The day opened with remarks by Rep. Blake Farenthold. He offered a much appreciated perspective on the issues as he has a background in computer consulting.

Next up was the “Anatomy of a Hill Meeting.” This session was particularly important for the new people. I remember my first year there and wondering why I was there and what I was going to do. The big takeaway from this is that as business people, we are there to present our individual voices to policymakers. The ACT staff handles all of the policy experts. I am always relieved to know that I don’t need to be an expert on the law to share how that law affects my business specifically.

ACT | The App Association gave us a report/update on what they’ve been up to since last year. They’ve been especially busy with the whole backdoor business with the FBI and Apple. Other notable topics were LEADS, KWI, Connected Health, COPPA, HIPAA, #ACTWearsIt wearable challenge, and FRAND.  Checkout those links to learn more.

Throughout the day we had briefings on Computer Science Education, Data Security (Encryption and Government Access), Health, ICANN, Logistics of Capitol Hill,  and Social Media.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman with ACT Executive Director Morgan Reed

To break up the day, we had a field trip to the Microsoft Innovation and Policy Center where U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman chatted with ACT Executive Director Morgan Reed about a variety of topics related to trade agreements and encryption.


After briefings on Monday, we each received our meeting schedules for Tuesday. Since my company, Thinkamingo, makes educational apps, my past meetings have mostly been with the Federal Trade Commission discussing the development and implementation of COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.) This year was much different for me.

My schedule included meetings with the offices of Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Bill Nelson, Rep. Gus Bilirakis, the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Sen. Al Franken, Federal Trade Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen, Dept. of Education Office of Educational Technology, Dept. of Education Statistical Privacy Advisor, and the House Committee for Education and the Workforce. These meetings took place over Tuesday and Wednesday.

It is unusual to actually meet the Senator or Representative and highly likely the meeting will be with one or more staffers. I find this to be a good thing. The staffers are policy experts who are ready to talk about the issues facing constituents and listen to their stories.

Ann Adair in Sen. Bill Nelson's office
Ann Adair in Sen. Bill Nelson’s office

Trip Highlights

  • Encountered great support for K-12 Computer Science Education, encryption, and cyber security throughout my meetings. These are all issues of national security and must be addressed with the appropriate gravitas. The consequences are an unthinkable scenario of outsourcing NSA jobs to China and building backdoors for the FBI whenever they choose. I do think the majority of our politicians are on the right track here. The trick, especially with computer science education, is to put support behind the rhetoric. Walk the talk, people.
  • In his office, Sen. Bill Nelson has a model of the new rocket scheduled to launch in 2018, along with a treasure trove of astronaut and space memorabilia.
  • FTC Commissioner Ohlausen’s office has a patio. The weather was stunning, so we met out there.
  • Rep. Bilirakis’ Chief of Staff Liz Hittos is a fellow Countryside High School graduate. We discussed getting together with Bilirakis and tour the tech entrepreneur scene in the 12th Congressional District of Florida.
  • The brilliant people I met at the Office of Educational Technology in the Department of Educaiton are former classroom teachers.

Taking an active part in government energizes me as an entrepreneur and citizen.  Developing relationships over time is key to being heard. I’ve learned so much through actively engaging with policymakers. Each year, I reflect on what we’ve accomplished as a business and as a family over the last year and I have new stories to share, both personally and professionally.

This conference is also an important time for me to feel really connected to my business and other business colleagues. Working from home either alone or with your spouse can actually be pretty lonely and can feel disconnected. Sometimes the business doesn’t feel real since we don’t talk directly to customers or have other employees or contractors. Finding those opportunities to have real conversations with people who completely understand you is a relief, frankly, and a reminder that it is reality. Actively participating in The App Association community through the App Economy Conference is a way for me to give back to such a supportive group of people, especially through the Know What’s Inside program.



Capitol Hill 2015

ACT Fly-In 2015

This past week, I made my 3rd annual trek to the ACT | The App Association’s Fly-In with about 50 other technology executives from around the country. I represented my company, Thinkamingo, Tampa, Florida, and Moms With Apps.

I became involved with ACT through my association with MomsWithApps, the largest organization of family-friendly app entrepreneurs. My areas of special interest are COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act), Intellectual Property, Patent Reform, and STEM education. My main work has revolved around meeting with the Federal Trade Commissioners over the last several years on various aspects of COPPA and issues of compliance and enforcement. Deciding that you want to protect kids’ privacy by preventing data mining and targeted advertising is easy. I think we all want to do that, but how that exactly works in practice is complicated when you start getting into the nitty gritty of personal identifiers, verifiable parental consent, and adaptive or tracking technology. We want to protect kids and do it in a way that still allows for technology innovation. At the Federal Trade Commission nfl jerseys sale, I met with Maneesha Mithal, Director of the Division of Privacy and Identity Protection, and policy experts and counsel from Commissioners Maureen Ohlhausen and Terrell McSweeny. In the past couple of years, we’ve made a lot of progress in kids’ privacy and this year was mostly a checkup on how things are going, especially with enforcement of COPPA.

Federal Trade Commission

This year, we also met with Education Deputy Director and Senior Counsel, Mandy Schaumberg, and had a great time with her and her staff talking about what we do as technology innovators in the education space. My friend and colleague Betsy Furler did an especially amazing job of really demonstrating how important technology is to her special needs patients and how her non-profit organization BridgingApps. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room!

CareSync CEO Travis Bond and I met with our local Congressman Rep. Gus Bilirakis and Legislative Counsel Jeremy Pederson, Esq. where we shared stories of our businesses and the apps we make. CareSync is an amazing health app that helps patients coordinate their care with providers and family members. Travis and I first met years ago when our sons were in the same Cub Scout Pack. It’s been exciting to see our companies grow over the years.

Ann Adair, Rep. Gus Bilirakis, Travis Bond
Ann Adair, Rep. Gus Bilirakis, Travis Bond

I was fortunate to have such excellent colleagues in every meeting, including (in no particular order) Morgan Reed, Sara Kloek, Betsy Furler, Marta Snow, Patrick Larsson, Scott Weiner, Ashley Johnson, Tricia McKenzie, Donna Wilson, Joshua Wilson, Libby Curran, Melissa Lee, and Jake Weatherly.

This year, I built in some time before the Fly-In to see a couple of performances at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. I hope to make this a tradition! Friday night, I attended a performance of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony with the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Christoph Eschenbach in the Concert Hall.  Before the concert, I was able to take in the Picasso ceramics exhibit and have dinner at the KC Cafe.

Hall of Nations Picasso NSO-Mahler9

On Saturday night, I was fortunate to get a ticket to the National Opera’s production of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman. It met all of my expectations! Eric Owens was a brilliant, powerful, and tragic Dutchman. In contrasting roles, Jay Hunter Morris was shimmering Erik who was hopeful, though heartbroken. The jewel of the evening was definitely soprano Christiane Libor in the role of Senta. I don’t believe I’d heard her before this performance and she certainly got my attention with her soaring lines and sensitive interpretation. The acting was full of subtleties and interactions that made this much more than a traditional park and bark. The set design, costuming, and lighting were all exceptional in enhancing the music and story.

Opera Hall Opera Stage dutchman

This pre-Fly-In mini-break needs to become tradition!