One of the most beautiful things in the world is the IBM Selectric typewriter. It looks like a work of Mondrian, sounds like a tango, smells like the future, and responds like a thoroughbred beneath one’s fingertips. (That covers four out of five senses. I’ve never tasted a Selectric.) When I was quite young, I often got to play on the Selectrics in my father’s company’s offices. I loved to type before I loved to write. I thought about this when I read recently that computer science is the highest-paid college degree; that computer programming jobs are growing at two times the national average; but that we’re producing so few computer science graduates.
While we see a push for more STEM learning and await the fate of Next Generation Science Standards, it’s puzzling that most states do not count computer programming toward either math or science requirements in high school. Furthermore, it would seem our elementary school computer labs are too often online library portals and not machines to be explored, understood, and fully harnessed. Raise your hand if you or your students know any basic computer coding.
In fact, much like the game of chess, coding is a great way for upper elementary learners to grasp logic and strategy, predict outcomes, pay attention to detail, and—even more importantly, but unlike chess—gain exposure to a key component of the modern world and understand how it works. I believe fourth graders should be messing about on PCs the way I messed around on Selectrics (with some professional guidance, of course).
What do you think, Mailbox teachers? Basic coding classes and tutorials are available for very young children online. Would you like to see them offered in your school? And should computer programming be a way for high school students to meet science or math requirements?