Coding, What Should We Teach In Schools?
We want our children to be taught so many lessons in school. Besides reading, writing, math, science, and history, we also want them to learn diligence, problem solving, and develop social skills. And in the 21st century, technical skills are becoming more wanted and needed in the real world. It’s important for us to adjust or add to the educational offering, tools for our kids to be successful in the long-run. But schools are often underwhelmed with resources and not required to directly “job-train” our youth. So the question becomes, how applicable to life in-general is coding?
First, let’s define what “coding” actual is. Coding is basically the process of writing computer programs. So, in order for us to see the visuals on software, websites, and Apps., someone needs to format the software program to specifically show. That popup window that asks for your email address? Someone had to tell the website how big that window is, what it displays, when it pops up, etc. These frontend experiences are built as a long language script written into the website’s backend. This language is called “code”.
The truth is, it’s been said for years how, “every company is a tech company”. The Wall Street Journal described this years ago; “We’ve now entered a period of upheaval, driven by connectivity, artificial intelligence, and automation. The changes affect the world of business so profoundly, that every company is now a tech company.” And Forbes even further back, “Today, no company can make, deliver or market its product efficiently without technology.” Companies, universities, and even hobbyists have learned, in order to be effective with marketing, distribution, or sometimes basic development of their software or hardware products, you need a fundamental understanding of technology. Large companies used to have an IT department. Now, Marketing, Accounting, even Sales teams need to react to customers and internal teams much faster. They don’t have time to wait on the IT department to fix “that glitch”. And each professional needs to be confident with his/her/their operational software. On the other end of the spectrum, one-off bloggers build their own websites from templates, but may want to customize the experience for their audience. This requires coding. So, it's safe to say, our children are growing up in a world where technology is integrated into every department of professional life.
Our schools, however, are not necessarily preparing kids for this type of career. According to the nonprofit, code.org, more than half of highschoolers now have computer science in their basic curriculum. But a large portion (40+%) of highschoolers still don’t even have computer class! These schools tend to be in under-funded or low-income neighborhoods. How are these kids going to apply to jobs that require a basic understanding of technology? The gap between the haves and havenots is clear from the get-go.
This economic disparity in schools directly relates to the students’ financial stability long-term. A study from salary-showcase website glassdoor shows that 11 of the top 25 highest paying occupations in the US are directly related to IT development. And in-industry authority bloggers note that there’s an estimated 9 trillion devices in active use around the globe today. “Software is a driving force… it is the glue that connects people from all corners of the globe.” Professions in software development are not only highly sought after, they’re heavily needed world-wide. But this doesn’t necessarily mean kids need to learn how to code. After all, being familiar with technology is a very different realm than developing your own website.
So, what skill-sets does coding specifically enable? Coding teaches kids to have to fix complex problems, have patience, and heightens language skills. If you want a complex solution on your website, the coder has to figure out each element one at a time - the visuals, the verbiage, the timing, etc. In order to fix a complex problem, you have to break it down and solve small problems in a sequence. This skill of breaking down large problems into smaller problems can be applied to many aspects of life - professionally and personally. Coding also takes a long time. It’s incessant details must be correct for the program to work. Which means, it takes perseverance and patience. Each child needs to guess, react, test, and solve each small problem - over and over again. An innate understanding, “slow and steady wins the race” is developed with successful coders. Finally, language skills can be developed by-way of coding. A study from the University of Washington, shows that if you have a natural aptitude for languages, you are likely going to be more proficient in coding. Our understanding is often that if you are good at math, you would be a great coder. But that’s not necessarily the case. Which is great! Because it means those children that might struggle with STEM programs are often naturally good at the same logic it takes to learn a language, and therefore, code.
Coding teaches social skills that can easily be applied directly to needed, high-paying stable jobs, or everyday personal lives. Kids today that are already falling behind with computer science fundamentals are going to have a tougher time finding a career. And every company, from a multi-billion dollar enterprise to a solo-prenuer needs to have a confident understanding of technology. It’s clear that teaching coding in school empowers our children with opportunities beyond building Apps. whether they directly use these skills, are given a job-offer in an indirect field, or need to have a simple moment of patience. In conclusion, teaching coding in schools is good for the development of individuals and our society at-large.