During the 20th century, literacy for all was advocated through learning your ABC’s. Now in 2014, it has become essential to learn your Alphas, Betas, and C++.
The ability to program is becoming ever more important, quickly turning into a core mark of competency for many 21st century workers. As we integrate digital products deeper and deeper into our lives, from Apple products to automated cars, all largely run by computers, the innovation of new ideas will depend on the ability to use coding languages. Soon computer programming will be as essential as handwriting.
In the month of December, celebrities around the world have gathered together to endorse students learning programming skills. From Ashton Kutcher to President Obama, they have toured the country promoting the Hour of Code, a worldwide event that encourages kids to learn to program and to see the challenges and joys of coding.
This year Singapore American School was among 75, 233 schools that participated in the Hour of Code. Sponsored by Digital Frontiers, Game Development Club, Geek Girls and Computer Science Club, this SAS event had over 70 high school students involved in learning to code for the first time or adding knowledge to their coding realm. This is in addition to the 60+ students who are currently enrolled in AP Computer Science.
Mrs. Julie Goode, AP Computer Science teacher and programming enthusiast said, “Programming is relevant because there are so many fields that use programming. It used to be that only engineers and computer scientists used programming, but now it is tough to find a field that doesn’t use programming. It definitely gives a student a huge advantage if he/she knows how to code.”
Steve Jobs once said, “Everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.”
The biggest advantage in learning how to code is learning how to break a problem down into smaller parts. It teaches problem solving far beyond any that students have ever encountered. This is one subject where you cannot count on having seen a problem before; you have to know how to think things through and you have to consider all possible scenarios. This is learning that empowers.
Goode further states, “I am so grateful for the day my dad told me to major in computer science. I am grateful my dad suggested a challenging path because the problem solving I learned as a computer scientist has affected all areas of my life. Life is full of problems, so knowing how to break a problem down is invaluable. After being a systems analyst at IBM, I eventually came back to my first love – teaching – but I know I can solve any problem now because I learned how to really think. I know it made me a better teacher.”
Now, schools around the world are making computer science a mandatory class. In Great Britain, for example, all students learn coding. The schools teach them at the youngest ages and weave it through their core curriculum. Goode believes that SAS should make moves in this direction as well. “I want SAS to be on the cutting edge. This is the 21st century literacy. I’d love to see our students all have the opportunity for the kind of problem solving that learning to code teaches. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but the skills that are used will benefit everybody,” she said.
She believes that “students should be learning the basics in middle school in at least drag and drop coding scenarios and then be required to have at least one semester of programming in high school.”
She would love to to see all our students learn how to solve problems and how to really think. With all the senior and Capstone projects, she can envision kids with coding experience working on teams with other students to help them compile and analyze data.
Whether to boost your career or just to keep pace with the rest of the world, learning to code has never been more important or more accessible. This is one area where a C++ equals an A.