When computers were first introduced to schools and homes, it was very common for the programming language BASIC to be taught in schools. Computers were seen as the future (which did come true) and it was important that everyone had a proper understanding of how to use them to their fullest extent. It was seen as either get with it or be left behind. In our society today, which is nearly overrun with technology, teaching programming in school is no longer as common. Why has teaching students programming taken the backseat in recent years when it has become more important than ever?

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Example code of the programming language ‘BASIC’, image credit http://www.terjewold.net/50-years-of-basic/

Shakopee High School has offered in past years Web Design one and two, and has recently added AP Computer Science Principles to its class list. Both of these classes allow many students to get their first experience in programming and the ideas involved in it. Having these classes may not seem like such a feat until it is put into perspective; only 10% of schools in the United States currently offer computer programming classes (Information Technology and Innovation Foundation). In such a technology driven world it seems odd that there are so few schools that offer classes in the creation of technology and software. Many students are eager to learn about how technology works and will take the chance to when given it. This can be seen in our own school, as this was the first year Computer Science was offered as a class and in its first year was taken by over forty students. There is an obvious drive by students to learn not only about technology on the outside, but how it works on the inside too.

Programming is often viewed as a hard a boring thing to master, with many assuming that it takes a lot of math and memory in order to excel in it. This doesn’t have always have to be the case, there are currently many ways to program that are very intuitive and allow anyone, of any age or math ability, to program with ease. An example of one of these languages is Scratch, Scratch is a drag and drop, graphic based language. It’s main purpose is game creation, giving tools that allow anyone to use it very easily, while at the same time leaving enough to the user that it pushes them to figure out and solve problems by themselves. This teaches programming fundamentals while giving an environment that is easy to use and is a lot of fun. Scratch and other programs like it can allow for children to be taught the fundamentals of programming at a young age, allowing them to begin learning how to code much earlier in life and gaining the benefits of it before they even start middle school.

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Workspace used in Scratch graphic programming

Much like how having proper typing skills is important in day to day life, so is being able to program. Programming provides fundamentals that can be applied to many areas in life. When creating something, a programmer is often forced to find the best method to a problem. They could use a method that is very easy but at the same time very slow, or they could find a method that requires them to think outside of the box to create a better and more efficient program. These skills can be very easily applied to projects outside of programming and to life in general. When a student is working on a project they could do it the easy way, or they could put more effort into it to get a better payoff in the long run. By teaching programming you are at the same time teaching how to think outside of the box, how to come to a better solution faster, and how to become a better problem solver in general.

Programming is a skill that can have many benefits, from giving a better understanding of the technology we use in our day to day lives, to teaching how to better approach and solve problems. During National Computer Science Week in 2013, then President Barack Obama said the following , “Don’t just buy a new video game. Make one. Don’t just download the latest app. Help design it. Don’t just play on your phone. Program it. No one is born a computer scientist, but with a little hard work and some math and science, just about anyone can become one. … Just give it a shot.” Programming can open a world of opportunities, and anyone can do it, just give it a shot.

 

Works Cited

Bajarin, Tim. “Programming: Why Basic Coding Should Be Mandatory in Schools.” Time. Time, 16 June 2014. Web. 15 May 2017.

“Fifty Years of BASIC, the Language That Made Computers Personal.” Time. Time, 28 Apr. 2014. Web. 15 May 2017.

Gardiner, Beth. “Adding Coding to the Curriculum.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 23 Mar. 2014. Web. 15 May 2017.

Pellissier, Hank. “Is the best second language Spanish, Chinese, Java, or Ruby?” GreatSchools. GreatSchools, 6 Apr. 2017. Web. 15 May 2017.