Getting Computer Science Into Middle School
My two girls finished middle school without ever learning how to write a single line of code. My son will finish middle school this year and he will be different because several years ago, we connected him with an ITP graduate who has taught him programming and also UX and UI design. But if we had left it to our middle school, he'd be in the same camp as my daughters.
This isn't entirely the fault of the school my kids go to. I've asked around and computer science classes in middle school are not very common.
We continue to teach our kids French but we don't teach them Ruby On Rails. Which do you think will help them more in the coming years?
The NY Times has a story this morning about this subject. Here's a quote from that article from Janice C. Cuny, a program director at the National Science Foundation:
Today, introductory courses in computer science are too often focused merely on teaching students to use software like word processing and spreadsheet programs. The Advanced Placement curriculum concentrates narrowly on programming. We’re not showing and teaching kids the magic of computing.
Introductory courses in programming should not happen in high school anyway. They should happen in middle school, around sixth grade. And they should allow kids to write software and make things happen with code.
I remember the first time I wrote some code, hit compile, then run, and the computer did something I had instructed it to do. It was as Janice says "magic". I was smitten and have remained so almost forty years later.
If the Obama administration wants to really do something about jobs and retooling America for the 21st century, it would fund the development of great middle school programming curriculum. It would fund training teachers to teach that curriculum. It would get millions of kids writing code before they have their first date. That would change a lot of things.