This post was written by Rebecca Lindegren. She is the Community Manager for the International Relations graduate program at American University. Rebecca is also the news editor for The Word Is Bond, an underground hip hop blog. In addition to music and higher ed, she enjoys skiing, cycling, and sustainable development.
Children and teenagers today do not know the world without the computers. That is a fact. Even 10 years ago, young people didn’t spend nearly as much time online as they do today. However, what do children do online? Is it productive? It’s about time to address the looming debate about the lack of information and communication technology in the U.S. public school’s curriculums.
The world’s technology is improving daily and it is predicted that by 2020 there will be 1 million more jobs than computer science students. More jobs means a greater need for technology savvy workers who understand computer science and computer coding.
Simply put, coding refers to computer programming. Children are already being taught computer coding in some places both domestically and internationally. If children were to learn these skills in elementary school, how beneficial could they be in the long run?
What’s the value?
Teaching children to learn how to write code doesn’t mean that the next generation will be one of entirely computer programmers. The intention is to show young people how to have a smarter relationship with technology and the computer, resulting in tools for a successful future.
Young students already learn necessary skills like logic and math early in school. Incorporating computer science could generate significant value. Kids would be taught unique ways to solve problems, in a more computational way. This methodology teaches students how to think rather than simply what to think.
How Could Our Economy Change?
Given the inevitable growth of technological advances, many individuals feel the need to more deeply understand computer systems.
Code.org is a nonprofit organization supported by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter creator Jack Dorsey. The organization promotes computer programming education and emphasizes that the number of open jobs in computer science will exceed the supply of qualified individuals if there is not a change in the educational curriculum. Apple Founder Steve Jobs once said, “I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.” Indeed, adding coding to a school’s curriculum would do more than simply teach coding skills; it would teach students critical thinking skills. As a result, the U.S. will be able to fill the growing number of computer science jobs domestically, boosting our economy and job market.
Who’s Doing It Already?
Estonia, a small country in Eastern Europe with only 550 schools, teaches coding classes from the time a student is in first grade. However, not many other places are following Estonia’s lead, at least not right now. It is estimated that nine out of 10 U.S. high schools do not offer coding classes at this time.
Still, in the U.S., companies are sprouting up to advocate for greater technology literacy among students. Code for America, another nonprofit organization aimed at getting coding classes in schools, has just been given a $5 million grant from the Knight Foundation. Code.org director Ali Partovi and his twin brother have both promised the organization $1 million as it is lobbying to get coding classes in the public school systems in 41 states.
With technology changing as rapidly as it is, choices will have to be made on how best to incorporate technology into classrooms. Today’s children are our economy’s future, and if they are to remain competitive globally, they need the skills to do so.