In case you hadn’t heard, non-profit organization code.org recently ran a nation-wide campaign entitled ‘An Hour Of Code’ that was created as a means to get schools across the country to participate by dedicating one hour of a single week to teaching students about Computer Science. It was promoted by sports stars, celebrities, and technical icons and even all the way up to President Obama himself. In just one week, roughly 22.5 million students had been taught an hour of computer science, and for many, it was for the first time. At a relatively low cost per student, the campaign proved just how within reach change can be. Most of the cost associated with this one week was creating re-usable resources that can continue to propagate and facilitate education bringing down the total cost per student reached even more.
But what does “An Hour of Code” really mean? For many people outside of the development community the message of what this really means may be diluted in the phrase. While this is a great start, it is still just a scratch on the surface. This isn’t just about an hour of code, it’s about a permanent transformation in education and the way we teach our children to think. This isn’t just about students learning what code is at its most basic form, but to transform the way they interpret the world around them with the following skills to name a few:
- Technical Literacy
- Problem Solving
- Analytical Thinking
- Creativity, Ideation and Application
- Engineering and Architecture
These are skills that need to be developed over the entire spectrum of education and we need our students to continue to be exposed to many more hours, and we need it to happen now. While primary education focus is indeed essential, we are still failing those who have a more immediate need which is our current high school students. Not only do we want our students to be able to read and attain basic code comprehension but we need to teach them to think creatively when facing a multitude of problems and challenges in a changing world. We need them to look at the world around them and learn to apply these ideas, and we need them to be prepared to do this with the tools of the 21st century.
As of a 2011 Microsoft report which I encourage everyone to read, it was reported that only 21,139 students even took the Advanced Placement (AP) tests in 2011, numbers that are actually down from 2000. Compare this to the estimated amount of forecasted job demand by 2020 falling short of demand by 1 million more jobs than students and it’s easy to see just how far short we are falling of closing the gap in skills training and job demand, and thus providing our children, ourselves, and our economy with a better future. It’s not that students aren’t showing an interest but rather are not being given the opportunity. Only 1 of 10 schools currently even teach Computer Science and only 17 states currently even allow Computer Science classes to count towards science and math graduation requirements.
I didn’t get my first exposure to the field until my 20’s and I wish I had been exposed at a younger age, although I do still firmly believe that playing video games accounted for a large majority of my eventual interest in software development. I wasn’t the best math or science student, but critical thinking and problem solving always came naturally to me and software development gave me an outlet to apply those skills. So parents, please support your child’s obsession with Minecraft, encourage them to take that problem solving and builder mentality into the real world, encourage your schools to take action, teach them an hour of code, and then another, and let’s all act together to create a better future for ourselves and the generations to come.
About the Author
Jason Sewell is a software developer/aspiring hacker evangelist, and co-founder of Hawaii’s first web development professional training program Dev League, as well as local web application solutions agency Sudokrew. His current interests are expanding the reach and interest of software development in Hawaii for both current professionals and the younger generation, as well as creating web application software solutions and opportunity through technology. He has a beard….always.