Monday, December 5, 2016

Computer Science & Coding: What does it mean to me?

The week of December 5-11 is recognized as Computer Science Education Week throughout the world.  Many organizations and schools have activities planned in celebration of CSE Week on a wide array of levels.  It is no secret that the future of the United States and the world is going to depend on computer science and coding.  The problem is that the world is millions of computer scientists short in fulfilling the jobs and careers that are available.  As educators, we need to do a better job of preparing students for the jobs of the future.  It is never too early to have students start planning for their future.  While it is typical that schools have career days and job shadowing experiences, most of these experiences do not happen until a student is in high school.  We need to start with kids as young as kindergarten in coding and computer science to prepare them for the future.  

A bit of a disclaimer: I am not a coding expert.  I am not a coding enthusiast.  In fact, my knowledge and skills in coding are below novice.  However, what I do know is how important it is that coding becomes more of a focus in our schools.  Not that it should be used as an excuse, and I don't fall back on this as a crutch, but I failed to see the importance of coding for a long time because I was a social studies teacher.  I didn't have computers in my classroom.  My curriculum was already hard enough to cover in 9 months, let alone bringing in more to cover.  Overall, my philosophy was, "How is coding going to apply to and help me teach my standards?"   It took me until the CUE Conference 2016 in Palm Springs to final start to realize that this was a misguided, misinformed, and detrimental point of view.  
Watch Hadi Partovi's TEDx talk here.

One of the keynote speakers at CUE 2016 was Hadi Partovi, a man that escaped the horrors of war in his birthland of Iran during the Iran-Iraq War, came to the United States with his family, and founded numerous tech companies, including code.org.  His hour-long keynote highlighted his life, his education, and statistics on the present and future of the global economy in regards to computer science, females and underrepresented minorities in computer science, and why we must press politicians to take notice of the importance of computer science.  I left his speech, like many others probably did, inspired to make changes.  I went to a coding session later that day at the conference, and while I did not get much from it (the session was more of a "sit & get" on places you can go to get information; they were good resources, but I wanted to see action, not words), it inspired me to change my attitudes toward coding.  

Fast forward about nine months, and sadly, I am not much further along than where I was in March.  I could make excuses all day long, but I take full responsibility for not bettering myself as an educator by exploring more resources and learning more ways to incorporate coding into all subject areas, not just computers classes.  So today, December 5, 2016, I took a step forward to righting the ship by signing the diversity pledge on code.org, vowing that all students can code and should have the opportunity to learn to code.  It is my duty and responsibility to use the numerous resources that are available to educate myself about computer science and coding, and I vow to take advantage of those resources, which include:

Your PLN:  If you are reading this, there is a great chance you got the link from Twitter.  The people that you follow are a great resource of activities and information that can help you to build your computer science and coding skills.  A recent #tosachat Twitter chat highlighted coding, and while I was completely lost, I was able to glean tons of great resources and make connections with people that are much smarter than I.  

Computer Science Education Week:  Visit csde.org for great information on lessons, collaboration with educators around the world, and a blog that will provide you with a solid base to start your coding journey or to enhance what you are already doing.  

Code.org:  The gold standard of coding resources, it provides resources for students, parents, teachers, and works as an advocate for promoting computer science.  They also sponsor the Hour of Code, which will be happening in classrooms around the world throughout this week.  

Khan Academy:  "The YouTube of Education" (ok, I made that up, but that's essentially what it is), Khan Academy provides short videos on coding and computer science that you and your students can use to build your skills.  

You may not have computers in your classroom and you may not have strong skills, but you can still code with your students.  All of the above resources also provide activities that require no technology.  And because our students today are a part of the generation that doesn't know a world without computers and the Internet, by introducing them to computer science and coding, they'll be able to teach you a few things.  

The biggest thing:  now I have to take my own advice that I have provided here and do something about it.  Until next time...