Jason Henry for The New York Times
Computer coding for kids is a “national education movement that is growing at Internet speeds,” reports the New York Times.
MILL VALLEY, Calif. — Seven-year-old Jordan Lisle, a second grader, joined his family at a packed after-hours school event last month aimed at inspiring a new interest: computer programming.
“I’m a little afraid he’s falling behind,” his mother, Wendy Lisle, said, explaining why they had signed up for the class at Strawberry Point Elementary School.
Code.org, a tech-industry group, is offering free curricula and pushing districts to add programming classes — and not just in high school. In nine states, students earn math — not elective — credits for computer science classes. Chicago’s public school system hopes to make computer science a graduation requirement in five years.
In Mill Valley, elementary school children and their parents solved animated puzzles to learn the basics of computer logic. Many parents see coding as “a basic life skill,” says the Times. Or perhaps the “road to riches.”
Some educators worry about the industry’s heavy role: Major tech companies and their founders, including Bill Gates and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, have put up about $10 million for Code.org. The organization pays to train high school teachers to offer more advanced curriculums, and, for younger students, it has developed a coding curriculum that marries basic instruction with video games involving Angry Birds and hungry zombies.
The lessons do not involve traditional computer language. Rather, they use simple word commands — like “move forward” or “turn right” — that children can click on and move around to, say, direct an Angry Bird to capture a pig.
Computer programming should be taught in every school, said Hadi Partovi, the founder of Code.org and a former executive at Microsoft. It’s as essential as “learning about gravity or molecules, electricity or photosynthesis.”
I’m not convinced that everyone needs to learn programming in order to use computers. And it’s not the only way to learn logic.
My three-year-old nephew was playing Angry Birds on his tablet today, prepping for his future as a high-tech zillionaire. That 7-year-old in Mill Valley is so far behind.