Computer Science for Every Student: Tapping Into Coding Bootcamps

Opinion

Countries around the world are recognizing computer science education as a top national priority.

In England, children are exposed to computer programming and coding fundamentals as early as age 5. Estonia, a small country with a population of 1.3 million people, is making waves in the tech world by launching a nationwide initiative to teach kids from the age of 7 to 19 how to write code.

Educators and tech advocates worldwide have argued that it’s no longer enough for students to play computer games in the classroom. Students should be creating them, or at least have a basic understanding of what’s going on behind the scenes.

These initiatives aren’t meant to turn every child into an aspiring programmer. Rather, the goal is to equip students to understand the tech innovation that touches nearly every aspect of their modern world. Exposing kids to code, at a time when they are learning core life skills, helps demystify an intimidating subject, develop problem solving abilities, and unlock creative potential.

Over the past several months, the United States has made major strides in recognizing computer science as on par with subjects like math. The White House is providing federal dollars for career development programs and incentives for schools to include computer science in the classroom.

Once again, during last week’s State of the Union address, President Obama reiterated the necessity of expanding access to computer science by “…offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one.”

However, the United States still has a long way to go, with one out of every 10 schools across the nation teaching computer science. Tech companies are desperately looking to attract tech talent, yet our education system hasn’t been able to produce enough skills-ready grads to fill these growing roles.

So the question stands, how do we teach programming skills to the roughly 50 million students in the U.S. attending primary and secondary schools? How do we inspire innovation and remain competitive in the global marketplace?

While I believe President Obama’s quest is achievable, there are many obstacles that need to be addressed. Primarily, there is currently an overwhelming lack of qualified computer science educators and no standard certification process in place.

One obvious solution is providing K-12 educators with professional development training so they can effectively teach computer science in the classroom. Organizations like Code.org are already offering basic curriculum and development programs to arm educators at the primary and secondary level with materials and tools they need to teach baseline computer science concepts.

However, the demand for computer science educators becomes more challenging at the high school level. Especially as students begin learning CS fundamentals at an early age, they will need to be supported by educators with more than a baseline knowledge of computer science as they progress in their education.

This is why school districts should start tapping into coding bootcamps, especially at the high school level

Coding bootcamps offer an extremely effective learning environment for students who have a desire to dive deeper into computer programming and obtain real-world skills, which are difficult to pick-up in a traditional classroom. Another benefit of coding bootcamps is the flexibility to adapt curriculums to teach the latest technologies, ensuring students are job-ready on day one.

Additionally, coding bootcamps can serve as an effective way to quickly train computer science educators and prepare them for the demands of the classroom. In as a little as three months, teachers can become equipped with practical knowledge of programming, which they can then bring back to their classes.

We still have barriers that need to be removed before we can expose every student to computer science. Nevertheless, with the support of educators, the tech industry, parents and the government, I’m confident that we will come together and build a solid foundation to prepare kids for the future.

Richard Wang is an entrepreneur and CEO of Coding Dojo , a 14-week coding bootcamp with campuses in Seattle, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, and Dallas (March 2016). Follow @codingdojo

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