Reading, Writing, Arithmetic and Coding – Are these the Fundamentals of the Future?

Back in early December, President Barack Obama spoke during Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek) to highlight the ongoing available opportunities and demand for current and future programmers: “Don’t just buy a new video game, make one!” he said. “Don’t just download the latest app, help design it! Don’t just play on your phone. Program it.”

This most recent CSEdWeek, December 9-15, 2013, featured an “Hour of Code” campaign; an initiative by the non-profit group Code.org, to encourage all students to set aside one hour during that week to expose themselves to computer programming. “What is the significance of this initiative?” you may be asking yourself. Well, based on these statistics below, just for my home state of MI, there is an obvious demand for new developers both locally and globally.

With states like MI recently reporting some of the highest unemployment rates in the nation (almost 9%), statistics like these indicate the importance of the opportunities available in the field of Computer Science. Despite this growing need, there are only a few states that count computer science courses towards high school graduation credits, with AP Computer Science taught in just 10% of US high schools. In comparison, the UK has added a computer science curriculum for all students age 5-17, and every Chinese student is taught at least one year of computer science.

To help lower unemployment rates, bridge the gap between supply and demand for coding projects across the globe, and help ready American students for the development jobs of the present and near future, many organizations recently began offering free or low-cost coding tutorials for all age groups and ability levels. These tutorials cover a wide variety of topics, interests, and levels, from an introduction to computer science and building mobile apps and games to making web pages and learning to program with robots. These myriad topics are bound to spark the inner developer in us all!

In addition to these tutorials, companies, schools and groups like Code.org, Codecademy, and Khan Academy are also promoting events called CodeDays. A group called StudentRDN throws these CodeDays. They encourage students and budding developers “to hang out with friends, meet new people, make something cool, and become a better programmer in 24 hours.”

Events like these can be platforms from which new development ideas and programs spring forth. At one recent event in Santa Monica, CA, one group of students were working on an App that detected snoring from nearby users, while another was working fervently on a video upload site. Many users at these events work all day and into the evening to finish their projects like a die-hard scrapbooker works to put together their latest life event at any all-weekend “scrap”.

It is not only the White House, companies, and organizations that are encouraging people to code, but also representatives from our states. Rep. Tony Cárdenas from CA has introduced a bill called 416D65726963612043616E20436F646520, which translated to hexadecimal is “America Can Code”. He is hoping to get computer programming categorized as a foreign language in order to use grants that can help facilitate the introduction of coding into the schools as early as kindergarten.

It’s common knowledge that more and more processes are being automated in all facets of daily life, in education, corporations and at home. It would appear that the need for coding and creation of new applications for mobile devices, stand-alone devices, and the web at large, is stemming from this push for automation, and driving the demand for future computing jobs. Regardless of the tool used to jumpstart new development by both the everyday and experienced user, these groups are encouraging people in all walks of life to become at least basically versed in programming. And while programming might not be for everyone, as a parent looking to provide the next generation with the knowledge and skills to make them globally competitive, I certainly plan to support the push to make coding a part of the standard curriculum for the job seekers of tomorrow.

About Melissa Coen

Melissa Coen, is currently the IT Systems Manager for United Global Sourcing, Inc, located in Troy, MI. She has been working in IT for the last 15 years, with companies ranging from small startups to Fortune 500, and enjoys getting to work with new products and services in the continually evolving field of Information Technology. Melissa is happily married with 3 beautiful daughters and resides in Metro Detroit.

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