More and more schools offer robust computer science classes and programs in an effort to excite students about STEM careers and prepare them for technology careers. In addition to increased computer science opportunities during the school year, some districts and even private companies offer unique computer science and programming camps during the summer break.
In a room full of 13- and 14-yearolds, students sit staring tensely at computer screens immersed in the task at hand. No, these students are tweeting, blogging or using Facebook, instead, these students are learning programming basics.
And while all this happened at iD Tech Camp in Nashville — a summer program for techie kids — business leaders looking to the future job market say it needs to be happening earlier and more routinely in K-12 schools. At least one Nashville charter school operator hopes to address the need directly, while some public schools are offering more coding classes as part of other programs.
Nine out of 10 U.S. schools don’t offer computer coding education in their curricula, according to Code.org, a nonprofit dedicated to growing computer science education nationwide. Co-founder Hadi Partovi called computer science the “new literacy” and believes computer programming is part of the new path to success for Americans.
“We need our future lawyers, doctors, politicians, and accountants to know the basics of how to create technology, not just to consume it,” Partovi said. “The new American dream is to build the next Instagram, or to be the next Mark Zuckerberg. Every student should have a shot at that — anything less would be un-American.”
Computer sciences charter school proposed
Ravi Gupta wants to open a charter school in Nashville with a curriculum built around computer programming, his second charter in as many years. He’s seeking approval today from the Metro Nashville school board.
Gupta, a Yale University law graduate who went through an incubator program for starting charter schools, founded Nashville Prep in 2011. It became the highest-performing charter school in the state after its first full year of operation.
“I’ve never found an issue that resonates more since I’ve been in Nashville than computer programming in education,” Gupta said. “The business community, the growing tech community, parents, students, everybody you can find is fired up about this.”
Gupta’s newest charter proposal was endorsed by an independent review committee. If approved as expected, the Nashville Academy of Computer Sciences will incorporate one hour of computer programming instruction per day, plus a traditional curriculum. The school would be located on the downtown Avon Williams Campus of Tennessee State University, opening in the fall of 2014 for fifth-graders, with plans to add one grade per year.
Gupta hopes to change computer programming’s current place in American education with his new charter.
“We need to treat computer programming like we treat calculus, like Shakespeare, or like writing a seven-paragraph essay,” Gupta said. “It’s something that in this world you need right now in order to interact with the world and create things.”
Professor Douglas Schmidt, associate chairman for computer science and engineering at Vanderbilt University, says the United States is behind globally in the race to educate computer programmers. He supports Gupta’s initiative and hopes more schools like NACS open their doors, and soon.