ITEC 211 Algorithmic Art: 3 Credits
Time/Place: 10:00-10:50 AM, MWF Tilford 405, Instructor: Rob Bryant, Bryant@gonzaga.edu

I think that this is a valuable class because for me personally as an undecided major it gives me a little look at a field I had not really thought about.

-Julie Quinn

Course Catalog: Algorithmic art sits at the intersection of mathematics, programming, algorithms and art. The primary goal is to teach computational thinking to liberal arts students. Student motivation is achieved by presenting programming and math concepts in the context of the visual arts. The assignments use the programming environment called Processing which was developed specifically for visual artists.

In contemporary terms, an algorithm is an equation – a basic building block of computer programming. Why do liberal arts students need to know about algorithms and computational thinking?

I personally think that Information Technology should be part of the core curriculum at Gonzaga. With the way the world is heading, technology is of the utmost importance.

-Cole Kelly

“If you want to be an educated person in the 21st century, you had better know about technology,” says Professor Rob Bryant. “Almost all of today’s disciplines – and jobs – rely on a computational component, and I’m not talking word processing. I’m talking about finding ways to crunch data in almost any field, because either there’s too much data to manipulate via human power, or it’s too tedious.”

Jeannette Wing, a former assistant director at the National Science Foundation, wrote a seminal essay in 2006 arguing the myriad ways in which understanding of computer programming benefits and is essential for critical thinking.

A 25-year Gonzaga veteran, Bryant is a regional leader in a national movement that believes higher education must teach computational thinking to students beyond the field of computer science. The benefits will include broad gains in critical thinking, along with graduates who are better prepared for employment – and possibly a trickle of new majors in computer science and computer engineering, fields that hunger for more talent nationwide.

New this fall, Algorithmic Art was assigned to 25 incoming freshmen. It is from a new program called ITEC, for Information Technology.

Most people don’t know that everything a computer does really only consists of ones and zeroes. It’s very interesting once you understand it, and when you do you will realize how amazing it is that we have created such miraculously powerful machines.

-Scott McIntire

“The hardest part of the class, at least for me,” says freshman Sarah Hartwig, “is training myself to think like the computer. However it’s still one of my favorite classes. I love thinking of new ideas and images that I can make with the skills I’m learning.”

Bryant also taught Digital Technology & Society and Fluency in Information this fall. He hopes to build ITEC into a minor. “Today’s students arrive at Gonzaga thinking they know everything about computers,” he says. “What they actually are good at is consuming technology. But they’re not necessarily good at understanding how they can control computers by doing some simple programming.”

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