This week is Computer Science education week and the Hour of Code. The Hour of Code is a global movement reaching tens of millions of students in 180+ countries (see the map below for this year’s participating places).
It’s not just about learning how to code, but learning how computers work. Computer Science teaches you how to think logically, be creative and exposes you to the technology that will drive their future. “In the 21st century, Computer Science is just as foundational as biology, chemistry,” said Hadi Partovi, founder and CEO of Code.org, a Seattle-based national nonprofit that works to expand access to computer science and increase participation by women and minorities. The group is also behind a campaign to get millions of students to participate in an “Hour of Code”. Bringing computer science into the schools ensures that everyone has an opportunity to become digitally literate, said Yasmin Kafai, a professor of learning sciences at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. “We’re not talking about turning everybody into a computer programmer or computer scientist,” said Kafai. “It’s a basic literacy.” Learning computer science also opens the door to high-demand jobs. By 2020, 4.6 million of 9.2 million science, technology, engineering and math jobs will be in computing, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Computer science doesn’t enjoy the benefits of other disciplines, including agreed-upon standards or robust assessments to measure learning, said Jeanne Century, director of Outlier Research & Evaluation at the University of Chicago’s Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education. But it’s the same argument as for science and math, she said. There are practical issues, such as more jobs requiring computer science. “Just as important is the fact that computing is everywhere in our lives. It’s pervasive all around us. We need to understand computing.” One of the challenges is finding enough well-prepared teachers. Among other efforts, an initiative of the National Science Foundation is seeking to have 10,000 well-trained Computer Science teachers in thousands of high schools. Currently, Computer Science is taught in only about one of four high schools nationwide with fewer in lower middle and elementary school grades. And only 27 states allow a computer science course to be counted toward graduation requirements in math or science, according to Code.org.