In first post in my If You Do Not Know Where You are Going You Cannot Get There From Here series, one of the economic legs of the stool was information technology:
Leg One: Information technology. The creation of wealth through the manipulation of bytes and bits. The jobs of tomorrow are directly connected to the computer and the networks of computers.
This may turn out to be a long reach for Nevada County, as our schools currently do not teach computer programing or code writing, except for one charter middle school that teaches basic programing skills. Our government run schools do not even teach basic spreadsheet use, let alone some basic code writing skills. Skills that help students learn logic, analysis and problem solving. Skills that can be applied to any career path. Attending Sierra College is one of the first opportunities for local students to learn a computer language, unless it is done outside the class room in a computer club, individual initiative.
The latest employment projections for 2010 to 2020 show a 6.9 percent increase in employment from 2006-2010 in computer and mathematical occupations, and a projected 19 percent increase from 2010-2020. This is in comparison to a 14.3 percent increase, on average, for all other growing occupations. By implementing Common Core as is now stands we are systematically making the decision not to prepare our young people for these jobs.
Across the United States some charter schools are starting to teach basic programing skills at both the middle schools and high schools. These students are doing better on State math exams and tests that assess problem solving skills. Learning logic, analysis and problem solving at an early age is paying off in latter years for these charter school students.
In Nevada County the future does not look very bright for our students. California schools are about to implement the Common Core standards, but it does not include programing skills, computer logic, data analysis, algorithmic thinking, or code writing. None of these critical skills sets are in the current version of Common Core.
We are doing a disservice to the young people in Nevada County by not preparing them for the entirety of STEM professions, especially computing, which is and will continue to be a critical skill for most jobs in the future.
What should we do? Charters schools are not bound by the Common Core standards, yet but the teachers union are pushing the legislature to bring them into the fold. Local Charter schools should be encouraged to include code writing as early as possible in the curriculum. For those kids stuck in Common Core, parents could organize computer programming and coding clubs and use the Collaborative Technology Center class rooms at the Library to teach their children the basics of computer science.
Code.org, a non-profit organizations that is promoting the idea that every child should have an opportunity to learn computer science is launching An Hour of Code initiative during Science Week in December. What is an hour of code?
It’s a one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify “code” and show that anyone can learn the basics to be a maker, a creator, an innovator.
Code.org is encouraging schools to include this program in Science Week, December 9-15, 2013. More details can be found HERE.
But, the question is what happens after the children get excited about how computers work and they can control them by writing a computer program? What happens when the hour is over? Code.org suggest that teachers can turn this first hour into a full week of computer science. They have published a tutorial for the teachers. More details HERE.
At weeks end all those interested in computers and code writing will be fired up where do they turn to continue their interest in computer science? One would be to start computer programing clubs at the Collaborative Technology Center. Another would be to encourage the children to pursue online courses that progress from the grade school to the college level. The Sierra Education & Science Foundation has some suggestions HERE.
In addition, Edutopia.org has some suggested programing applications (Apps) and tools for iPad and tablet users that are free, or almost free, and require no coding background or expertise! 7 Apps for Teaching Children Coding Skills
I would like to hear your suggestions. How do we over come the limitations of Common Core and prepare our children for future jobs? Please comment.