A Look at Computer Science For All

For my generation, reading, writing and arithmetic provided a base skill set. It opened the way for any number of careers. For my daughter, it will not be enough.

She still needs these skills. However, they will not grant her admission as they did me. She needs more. She needs a computer science understanding to control the technology and devices around her.

It is a reality President Obama recognizes. He wants to facilitate the changes needed to address this new world.

It is a simple enough of a concept, educate our children for the realities of tomorrow, and we will build a strong tomorrow. Because of this, I commend President Obama for his Computer Science for All initiative. My question remains, will it provide the base he hopes it well? Or is it too one size fits all?

A well-educated population remains central to the United States, each individual state, the school districts within a state, the community it supports, and each individual within each school with unique needs.

On the national level, support often comes with a one size fits all solution, yet, we are not a one size, uniform, similar nation. No Child Left Behind showed us the dangers of treating our diverse nation as if they were carbon copies of each other. So, with caution, I embrace President Obama’s announcement, another heart in the right spot, another promise with a good name, Computer Science for All.

I know from personal experience the difficulty of finding qualified computer developers while I’ve seen recent college graduates struggle to find their careers. We are in a time of change, a mismatch of skills in desperate need of fixing. It hurts all ends of our population and our economy as a nation. This is the reason why I quietly and anonymously support code.org, and why I not so quietly push hour of coding.

But it is not the high-end jobs that worry me. When my four-year-old daughter enters the workforce, being able to read and do some math will not meet the needs of our most basic jobs. She will have to control the machines and technology she grew up with. It is this that Obama took aim at.

He offers money to get this into our schools. And until I see how this takes shape, I hold my judgement on the effect this money has. He seems to be interested in using games, which gives me hope.

He offers training for teachers. This is is fundamental, in a way I don’t think most understand yet.

Reading is taught early and reinforced in everything you do. To a lesser extent, math functions the same way, learning to cook without understanding fractions is challenging. In the near future, computer programming will hold this same basic function. Like reading, writing, and arithmetic, computer programming will need to be taught early, and then have other subjects layer on top of the technology, just like in the world around our kids.

President Obama expresses interest in working with the private sector and with local groups. Again, I am cautiously hopeful. We need to find the right solutions at a national, state, local, and individual level. We need to seek out the right group of solutions to meet our diverse population.

We need to be persistent, and flexible. In that flexibility, if it seems like we do not get results on our first try, we need to try again. If we need two solutions for two different places, or for two different people, then we need to give room for that. In the end, we need to remember the statistics we track for measure success represent human beings.

Computer Science for All is not something that can happen by one person in the Oval Office. It is something we all must work for, at our local schools, or at high-risk schools. It is something we need to work at individually, in unique ways, towards a common goal. It is something each of us can move forward if we choose to.

For my part, I plan on watching the actions and results of educators, policy makers, and organizations, giving my input where it will help. I plan on making sure my daughter’s school includes computer science in their lessons. Additionally, I am investigating ways to introduce computer science concepts as early as birth.

What do you plan to do?

Image Credit: whitehouse.gov

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A programmer at heart, Claire Jennings spent the first seventeen years of her career as a software development engineer before joining the ranks of management. She spent eight years of her career in the video game industry, learning how virtual worlds are put together. Now a mother of a four-year-old daughter, she and her husband strives to help children understand how to control the technology that runs through every thread of their lives using her knowledge gained while in the video game industry.