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Should All High School Students Learn Programming?
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Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
6/14/2013 | 4:47:09 PM
re: Should All High School Students Learn Programming?
I think in a perfect world, kids would all take a short course on the basics of programming, and those with an interest could then select more in-depth training as an elective. And, we should be doing a better job integrating tech into math and science courses where it fits organically.
OtherJimDonahue
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OtherJimDonahue,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/14/2013 | 7:31:12 PM
re: Should All High School Students Learn Programming?
"We should be doing a better job integrating tech into math and science courses where it fits organically."

Absolutely, Lorna--that needs to be a priority.

Jim Donahue
Copy chief, InformationWeek
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
6/14/2013 | 9:08:02 PM
re: Should All High School Students Learn Programming?
We have a shortage of programmers, but we're going to find enough people qualified to teach programming in every high school? Using computers to effectively teach core science and math is better and more practical.

That said, I would love to expose my daughters to the kind of short course Lorna describes below. Anyone know of a good such course online?
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
6/14/2013 | 9:29:11 PM
re: Should All High School Students Learn Programming?
Rather than looking at it from a requirement perspective, consideration should be given to showing student why programming can make them better at almost any job that involves knowledge work. It takes a particular mindset and aptitude to be a professional programmer, but almost anyone can derive some benefit from being able to write a Python script that automates some work-related task. Every journalist, for example, should know enough about code to extract data from a data set.
ggiese87101
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ggiese87101,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/14/2013 | 10:49:59 PM
re: Should All High School Students Learn Programming?
I remember learning Logo (or "Turtle", as I called it) as a kid. It was fascinating to me that a few simple commands could create visually interesting patterns. And every kid in the class was able to figure it out. Various methods of teaching computer science should be taught to kids at nearly every level, and for a variety of reasons. Logo and the like are great for elementary school. MIT's AppInventor (appinventor.mit.edu) would be great for middle school or high school. Pure programming languages might be best left for electives?

As Thomas mentions, working with data sets and understanding automation (plus interfaces and prediction of results) are important skills needed to work with the tools necessary to do good math and science, but also to work with the "Internet of Things", or as a Wired article calls it, the "Programmable World". If everything we own and/or interact with has sensors and an automatable interface, understanding a somewhat complex system will be necessary for daily life!

Anyway, some amount of "pure" but basic/applicable computer science should be part of the curriculum, as well as integrated into other courses, and maybe even more than just math and science.

BTW, a local school has completely dropped paper books and notes and turn-in reports in favor of all-computer eBooks and Word documents (and etc.), and this is at a school that has "normal" high school class periods and class subjects with hands-on activities, not even close to a sit-in-your-chair-and-watch-videos school/home school model. Times are a-changin'.
cbabcock
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cbabcock,
User Rank: Strategist
6/15/2013 | 12:00:35 AM
re: Should All High School Students Learn Programming?
I once sought a short, introductory course to computers and ended up in a Fortran programming course. Ouch. It taught me a lot, mainly that I wasn't a very good programmer. Teaching computer languages is going to be passe very soon. Even professional programmers will work from programming workbenches in the cloud that can formulate routines in multiple languages and provide functions on a graphical design board without the user needing to write a stitch of code. The course that's needed is still an introductory course to computers -- one that teaches what they can do and can't do, and how humans still need to use their heads. Charlie Babcock, editor at large, InformationWeek
Chaz315
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Chaz315,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/15/2013 | 4:58:59 PM
re: Should All High School Students Learn Programming?
What happened to the free market and supply and demand? If you want more programmers, raise the salaries and benefits and more people will choose programming instead of accounting, engineering or an MBA for example. All those choices currently pay better than entry level programming so thats where the talent goes.
jries921
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jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
6/15/2013 | 6:04:00 PM
re: Should All High School Students Learn Programming?
First of all, I don't think there's a shortage of programmers. If there were, then programmers would make more and the unemployment rate for them would be a lot lower; and employers would be a lot less picky when hiring them (they might even be willing to train people, like my father was trained by the U.S. Marine Corps back in 1966 before there were any academic CS programs). Rather, this appears to be an effort to artificially inflate supply, helping to minimize labor costs.

Second, I don't think everybody has the aptitude for programming, just as not everybody has the aptitude to play a musical instrument. Those who have it should be encouraged, as learning programming is the most effective way to learn how computers work, but I see no public benefit in teaching people who lack both the proper mindset and the desire to learn. There are things that every citizen should know (like history, civics, science, and clear thinking, in addition to the 3 R's); computer programming is not one of them, any more than auto mechanics is (arguably, the latter is more important).

That said, I do think programming should be offered to high school (and possibly middle school) students as an elective. It's a useful life skill, no matter what one ends up doing for a living, but we shouldn't pretend it's for everybody.
jries921
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jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
6/15/2013 | 6:08:44 PM
re: Should All High School Students Learn Programming?
Authoring systems were supposed to make both programming languages and programmers obsolete 20 years ago; yet we still have both. And to the extent that authoring systems were used, the people best at using them were programmers.

For better or worse, it's a lot easier to be precise and efficient with the written word, then with either the spoken word or a GUI. I don't expect that to change.
Andrew Hornback
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Andrew Hornback,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/15/2013 | 9:26:19 PM
re: Should All High School Students Learn Programming?
Check out what's available on Coursera and the like... the price is right and if they keep up with the course, they'll learn something.

I also recall a university in the Midwest (maybe Indiana?) offering courses on C programming freely through the web. Just a Google search away...

Andrew Hornback
InformationWeek Contributor
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