'Hour of Code' a timely wake-up call for schools
By Jan Iwase
Educating a new generation of our workforce means providing the tools and skills necessary for students to succeed globally in the future. No one can deny the impact technology has had on our lives in recent years, but one of the most overlooked topics in education today is computer programming, or "coding." In fact, recent statistics show that computing jobs will make up 50 percent of all math and science jobs, but fewer than 3 percent of all college students major in computer science.
By 2020, it is estimated there will be 1.4 million computer science jobs and only 400,000 qualified college graduates to fill those positions, according to Code.org. Most U.S. students do not take a computer course prior to graduation from high school, while schools in China, Australia and other countries are beginning to introduce coding as part of the curriculum in their schools.
More needs to be done to introduce computer programming to American students at the elementary level. That is the premise behind an oath of commitment by Hale Kula's teachers to integrate coding into our curriculum. It is a pledge that earned the school a $10,000 grant from Code.org to increase its technology resources and introduce students to coding while they're still in their formative years.
It behooves us as educators to provide our students with this knowledge and know-how wherever their paths may take them. The dearth of a population skilled in coding even caught the attention of President Barack Obama, who recently told schoolchildren, "Don't just buy a new video game. Make one."
Earlier this month, Gov. Neil Abercrombie, Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui, schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi and 20 other lawmakers, education leaders and military partners joined our students in celebrating "The Hour of Code," a global event that introduced coding in schools to more than 15.6 million students around the world.
Observing our students code was eye-opening. Coding challenges students to problem-solve and think critically as they complete activities that gradually become more complex. Students communicated and collaborated with their peers, accessed tutorials when they needed more information, started over when they hit a roadblock, demonstrated perseverance and celebrated when they earned a trophy. Many parents shared that their child got home and immediately went on the website to continue their coding activities. One student completed all the levels in one day and went on to other coding sites to build on his newfound skills and knowledge.
Those who are in a position to influence education policy often visit schools and observe students as they share what they are learning in class. This time, however, rather than have our students demonstrate coding for our guests, we had students teach our leaders so they could experience the process of coding. Our students were great mentors, encouraging and guiding adults to learn by doing, making mistakes, asking questions and trying again. In fact, when one of our guests was frustrated, she asked her mentor to "just tell me what to do next." The student replied, "No, try again. Failure is part of learning." She got it and celebrated her success.
And that was just at our school. Imagine how many people were introduced to coding during "The Hour of Code" during Computer Science Education Week in early December. A recent article quoted this: "In a single week, students at schools across the U.S. wrote 500,000,000 lines of code as part of Computer Science Education Week, organizers said. By contrast, it took Google almost seven years to recruit student developers to write just 50 million lines for its Summer of Code program. Microsoft Windows runs on an estimated 50 million lines of code."
Technology is integrated into the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), a new set of clear learning expectations aligned to college and careers. Coding allows students to learn key CCSS skills, such as to think critically, problem-solve, collaborate, communicate and create; these are essential 21st century attributes our students need as they move forward to write — or code — their own future.