Within the first 10 minutes of the 2016 State of the Union Address, U.S. President Barack Obama noted that all students in the United States should learn how to code. Developers use different coding languages to create applications, and without coding, we would have no way to communicate with the devices we have come to know and love. We would have no way to connect with the Internet, and the vast land of data and information that it exposes us to.
To raise coding awareness, an organization called Code.org established the Hour of Code, which challenges educators and students everywhere to engage in one hour of coding on a particular day each year. Since its inception, schools and universities — and even companies — across the country have participated. Nationwide, many coding clubs and software schools where students of all ages gather to share their enthusiasm for coding have popped up. So, what’s the big deal about coding?
If you think about all the software and applications we interact with on a given day, it can be overwhelming. The phone we use, the drive-in window we order from, the gas we pump into our cars, and even the screens in the airport and across our highways are the result of coding. Coding is so essential to our digital ecosystem that we wouldn’t be able to start a car or run a washing machine without it.
This need for coders sparked Australia to require that students learn coding, and other countries have followed suit, recognizing the need to have a repository of software developers that supports their country’s digital infrastructure. The rise in apps and software has ultimately increased the number of careers in software development and engineering. And to meet the demand, companies that create software oftentimes recruit from other countries. For the U.S. to have enough developers to meet the demand, schools will need to institute programs that introduce coding to students. The U.S. can catch up, but coding must become an integral part of the curriculum.
How can coding become part of the curriculum? It’s already there! Coding is made up of logic and algorithms, and those are concepts and skills that have been incorporated into math Common Core Standards and Next Generation Science Standards. Many districts now require that students take and pass four years of math to earn their high school diplomas. Some states recognize coding as a foreign language requirement, but could it qualify as a math class requirement?
Higher education isn’t off the hook, either. Computer science professors are hard to come by! With the abundance of job offers for computer science, many experts in the field will choose to work for industry rather than teach at a university. Thankfully, some amazingly talented computer science professors are developing programs to grow the number of experienced developers in the U.S., and software schools are popping up that provide continuing education opportunities. So to keep our digital world humming, we need more students to pick this pathway!