DAILY INSIGHT: Bring back programming

By Steven M. Baule, CIO Advisor

When I wrote this blog, Computer Science Education Week was half over. According to Code.org less than one percent of American schools are still teaching computer programming. What has your school done to engage students in exploring computer science education? To brag for a second, two week ago one of our middle school computer teachers put forth a digital film festival where students presented a wide range of original films and a few retellings of traditional tales. Though there were the expected homage to One Direction and skateboarding, there was an interesting twist on Snow White (who would have thought she was a zombie after all?) and several other excellent videos. Those students learned how to create videos using a variety tools including Power Point and a range of web 2.0 tools. I think we need to work to take the students to the next level and ensure that we are still exposing students to programming languages and similar development tools.

The suggested resources at the Computer Science Education Week site, An Hour of Code, provide a good starting place for educators to introduce more programming into their classrooms. The site includes resources for ages 5 and up. When I was in high school, we learned to program, as there were not a lot of ready-made programs available for instruction. However, the logic and problem-solving lessons learned have been helpful many times over throughout my career. As more options have become available, schools seem to spend less time teaching students how to build their own tools and more time teaching students how to use the tools that others have invented.

One of the questions asked is, "Why should be teach programming?" The subtext is "We do not need that anymore." However, Bill Clinton's response to that, quoted from Code.org, was:

At a time when people are saying, "I want a good job—I got out of college and I couldn't find one," every single year in America there is a standing demand for 120,000 people who are training in computer science.

Programming continues to be a high-demand area in the economy and we computer scientists continue to be in high demand. Lifehacker has some programming games for primary students. As technology leaders in schools, it is important to advocate for strong computer science programs and ensure that all of your students have some access to programming opportunities.

Steven M. Baule is superintendent of North Boone CUSD 200 in Poplar Grove, IL. He has written several books on aspects of library and technology management and planning. Follow North Boone on Twitter @NBCUSD200.