Computer Science Education Week: Why It Matters Now More Than Ever
“Computer science is one of the few policy issues that can address both foundational education needs and workforce development demands for a state’s future workforce.” ~Code.org Advocacy Coalition
December 5, 2018 - The evolution of technology has created new and exciting opportunities for us to achieve the unimaginable and reach heights that were once beyond our grasp. With computing technology, a cardiologist can perform non-surgical heart procedures without cracking open a patient’s chest; an architect can build 3D models when designing a building; an artist can design a character for an animated movie.
These technological advancements have required that we renew our skills and rethink how this world operates. Whether in an advanced profession like cardiology or stocking merchandise in a supermarket, people from all walks of life and professions must adopt new technical skills. The increased need for a tech-savvy workforce has given rise to the need to restructure our education system to ensure that students have the skills needed in this new world of technology.
With computer science and technology changing every industry on the planet, computing knowledge has become part of a well-rounded skill set that should be required from students. Not only does computer science provide the technical skills needed in the workforce today, but its basic concepts help nurture creativity and problem-solving skills that help to prepare students for any future careers – even if they do not become programmers. However, the issue is that the world had been slow to adjust education systems to ensure that children have these foundational skills. Today, fewer than half of all schools teach computer science.
In order to help the education sector catch up with new demands of the age of technology, Code.org launched the Hour of Code™ in 2013 as part of Computer Science Education Week.
The Hour of Code™ is a one-hour coding challenge that gives students a fun introduction to computer science and has become a global learning event, celebration, and awareness campaign. The website offers hundreds of one-hour activities in over 48 languages for kindergarten and up. Activities require no experience and can be run on browsers, tablets, and smartphones – some don’t require any computer at all. These activities were created by large technology firms that include Microsoft, Apple, codeSpark, Google, Amazon, Salesforce, BlackRock, Verizon, Disney, Teach for America, Khan Academy, and more.
"The Hour of Code™ is designed to demystify code and show that computer science is not rocket science—anybody can learn the basics. Over 100 million students worldwide have tried an Hour of Code™. The demand for relevant 21st-century computer science education crosses all borders and knows no boundaries." ~Hadi Partovi, Founder and CEO of Code.org
Computer Science Advocacy
In addition to exposing children to the power of computer science, there is much work to be done to ensure that there are education policies and legislation in place that support the advancement and prioritization of computer science education. The Code.org Advocacy Coalition has provided much-needed leadership in advocating for computer science education over the last few years.
The group consists of more than 50 technology industry organizations, nonprofits, and advocacy groups working to make computer science a fundamental part of k-12 education. The Coalition recently released a report – 2018 State of Computer Science Education. Policy and Implementation – that illustrates the status of computer science education policy across the U.S. and a first look at school-by-school data on the availability of computer science in high schools. The report recommends nine policy steps illustrated below:
Source: 2018 State of Computer Science Education. Policy and Implementation Report
When the Hour of Code movement was launched in 2013, only 14 states had at least one of these nine policies in place. However, due to the hard work of the coalition, teachers, academics, community members, nonprofits, universities, corporations, government entities, students, and bipartisan support from state and national leaders over the last five years, 44 states have enacted one or more of these policies. The pace of reform is accelerating, with 33 states having passed new laws and regulations promoting computer science since 2017.
Nevertheless, there is still more work to be done. Across 24 states, only 35% percent of high schools in the U.S. teach computer science. In addition, Black and Hispanic students, students receiving free and reduced lunch, and students from rural areas are less likely to attend a school that provides access to this critical subject. So it is important to get involved, whether as a community member, parent, or employer.
Visit Code.org to learn more, and follow #HourOfCode on Twitter to see all the exciting events taking place throughout the week.
About the Author: Heather Gate serves as the Director of Digital Inclusion for Connected Nation. She is responsible for strategy development and implementation of programs that impact Digital Inclusion for all people in all places. She provides project management services including identification of program challenges and goals as well as day-to-day oversight and funding research. Heather also serves on the FCC Chair’s Advisory Committee on Diversity and Digital Empower.