Monday, February 3, 2014

Wake Up! I've Got Your Java

"Learning to write programs stretches your mind, and helps you think better, creates a way of thinking about things that I think is helpful in all domains.“ Bill Gates

I LOVE coffee. Let me be specific. I love lattes. Extra shots of expresso are always nice too. Cannot imagine my life without a Roasterie (Carmella, no whip and skim milk) or Latteland  (Brookside Bob with Almond milk) cup of magic each morning. There are things in life we all can't live without. How about you? Could you live without the Internet? Word Processing programs? Digital Games? Texting? Email? I think not. Computer Science is needed to function in society, especially in the US. 

Should Computer Science be the new requirement in schools?  It's the new rage in the news, school curriculum development, coffee shop conversations, and Hollywood has even jumped on board with several movies, Jobs, The Social Network, and The Internship. I've blogged before about the importance of coding and programming and I will continue to do so as it is extremely important for 21st century learning and progression. As, an artist and musician with the Black Eyed Peas put it, " Here we are...we ALL depend on technology to communicate, to bank and NONE of us know how to read and write code. It's important for these kids, right learn and write code."

Coding. Programming. Who cares? You should. For many years these terms have been kept to the underground world. You may have this perception of a room filled with selected nerds punching letters and symbols into a computer to bring the world games and software we need to live our lives. Not anymore.  It's time to wake up, smell the coffee, and  this is why:

1. We are short handed: Sad, but true: we are outsourcing many jobs that our youth are more than capable of doing. "There aren't enough people to fill these jobs because technology and the job market are moving much faster than education in high schools and colleges" explains Mark, Lassoff, founder of .  India and China are the two biggest countries for programming and coding. 

2. Builds life-long skills: How do you inspire creativity and confidence in learners? You reach out to each students' interests. ALL OF THEM. I will tell you that you have to make a connection to real world application. I know there are times when parents and teachers struggle to find the answer to "when will I need to know this?"  Computer science requires creativity, risk taking and perseverance which will build confidence. Coding and programming require memorizing rules and identifying patterns. This improves your memory and strengthens your mental muscles. All of these things come in handy throughout the journey of life.

3. Requires you to think critically and follow directions: Learning how to code and program requires you to learn a second language. What's so intriguing about this new language is the challenge of having to think very clearly about what you are trying to 'say'. Just being off by a letter or adding one too many parentheses will leave you lost in translation. It can be every bit as engaging and thrilling as playing a game. One of the most popular coding languages is Java Script which is the scripting language of the web. Then there's HTML, which helps you build websites and CSS, which provides a way to control the style and layout of multiple web pages at once. See for yourself. Wanna make a dog fetch a ball? Code this. As far as programming, another avenue of computer science offers experiences in using building blocks to command the program you are creating to do exactly as you want. Try it out. Wanna make the Angry Bird catch the naughty pig? Don't just play it, program it!  It's much easier than you think.

4.Get a J.O.B.: These infographs speak volumes...

5. It's FUN, but don't force it  Let's face it, you really can't make kids learn. Every great teacher knows that.  You engage students by finding out what interests them. We are are lucky to have a variety of coding and programming resources (Hour of Code) out there which cater to a variety of learners. Encourage our youth to play games, learn the 'new' language and make it fun!  Offer food, a laid back environment, allow them to listen to good tunes, work with a partner, take breaks and work at their own pace with short term and long term goals. Think about it...this is real world application.

This Code Avenger is tough and smart.

Inspire Our Youth! My Five Fav Free List:
This Code Monster is  cute and creative.

Susan Wojcicki, Senior VP at Google,  sets it straight, 
"Learning to code makes kids feel empowered, creative and confident."  
If we want our students to retain these traits into their adulthood we need to start in their youth.
 Wake up! Give it a shot.

Other Resources: check them out.

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