If you do a great deal of reading online, you’ll have discovered a great deal of messages about the Hour of Code during Computer Science Education Week. It seems like a great movement to expose all students to just what coding is all about and perhaps to inspire the next generation of computer scientists.
One article that I read stood out: No, Mr. President, Not Everyone Needs to Learn How to Code.
With all of the good news stories about coding activities happening in classrooms, I was drawn to this to investigate the other side. The article tries to draw the intention from the US President’s statements and does offer some realistic conclusions.
As every computer science teacher will tell you, not every student in any computer science class will go on to write the next big Angry Birds program. But, increasingly, the underpinnings of computer science take on importance for just surviving and staying on top of things in a technology driven world. The Ontario Ministry of Education has a terrific curriculum here. As well, in Ontario, the Association for Computer Studies Educators continues the process of ongoing professional learning among its members.
Pat Yongpradit, now at code.org shared some good news with me yesterday.
While I personally would like to see all students as programmers, and I’ve been a long time advocate that every student take at least one course in computer studies, it still isn’t a reality. If it would only be acknowledged, that there’s much more that follows a student when she/he exits a computer studies course. It’s an understanding that she/he can become a master of their devices and don’t have to rely on someone else for assistance. I’d like to offer three experiences that could have been averted with some understanding of how computers and computing devices work.
Recently, I was at a food court in a shopping centre. I wasn’t deliberately trying to eavesdrop on the teenagers next to me but you couldn’t help but hear the conversation if you were within 10 metres of them, it was so loud. It went something like this.
- She: I don’t have an iPhone, I had an Android but there has to be a Settings icon
- He: There isn’t one.
- She: Yes, you have to be able to configure it somehow.
- He: Here – you do it then – you took computer science
and then he slide his phone across the table to her. (I left out some of the more colourful language). She got it and tap, tap, tap – problem solved. Then she explained why he needed a password on his phone. He didn’t totally get it, but she did.
This happened a while ago. I got a phone call from a teacher in the evening. Dreamweaver was big at the time, being Ministry of Education licensed with teacher takehome rights, and she had asked her friend for a copy to install it. She couldn’t get it to install.
- She: Well, I got it from #####. She knows computers and says that it will work for me.
- Me: OK, when you put the CD in the drive, what happens?
- She: Nothing.
- Me: OK, eject the CD, make sure the coloured side is up and try again.
- She: Nothing.
- Me: What colour is the CD?
- She: Blue.
- Me: What kind of computer do you have?
- She: A Mac
- Me: You’ve got the Windows version of the software. You’ll need to ask for the Mac version.
- She: But ##### said it would work.
- Me: Well, it won’t. You’ll need to get the right version
- She: #$*&#$!$^ Well, you’re just wrong. Click!
I did contact ##### the next day and got the right copy and things got straightened away.
The third example is one that I think everyone can deal with. There’s nothing that tests your mettle more than configuring a printer, a mouse, or anything bluetooth / wireless. It’s that conceptual understanding of just what’s happening that can be so difficult. Depending upon the course in computer studies, you’ll have the opportunity to build a computer, or replace a card, or attach to a wireless network, or program a robot, or write a piece of code to make that silly inanimate object do your bidding.
You do have to feel sorry for those of us who struggle just to stay even. Technology continues to get more sophisticated and there is a desire to get the most from the device that you’ve paid so much to acquire. With all this sophistication comes a need to just get your head around what is happening. There’s where coding comes to the rescue. It’s more than understanding a language or languages. It goes to the fact that you can be in control of the device. You can make it do what you need it to. You are the master of it.
Given that as the ultimate goal – doesn’t it make sense that all students have experience coding?