NPR: A Push To Boost Computer Science Learning, Even At An Early Age (with listener pushback)
Nice coverage in NPR, including Barb’s AP CS data, with interviews with Hadi Partovi and Chris Stephenson.
What’s most striking about this piece are the comments. These are NPR listeners, and by and large, they are a reasonable group. But by and large, they are against teaching computer science in elementary school. Their arguments are interesting. Many are of the form “In my day…” Others are pushing back against the idea of teaching kids in elementary school something that is supposed to be a job skill. Still others are making an argument that I made this month in CACM: If the goal is more CS graduates, and there’s nothing in high school or middle school, what’s the point of making a significant effort to get computer science into elementary school?
Part of the problem here is the kind of argument that we’re making for CS in schools, including this NPR piece. I believe that the strongest argument is that most professions need computing, so it makes sense to build up that literacy. But it’s a hard argument to sell, and we keep falling back on the “CS jobs are going unfilled” argument.
A handful of nonprofit and for-profit groups are working to address what they see as a national education crisis: Too few of America’s K-12 public schools actually teach computer science basics and fewer still offer it for credit.
It’s projected that in the next decade there will be about 1 million more U.S. jobs in the tech sector than computer science graduates to fill them. And it’s estimated that only about 10 percent of K-12 schools teach computer science.
So some in the education technology sector, an industry worth some $8 billion a year and growing, are stepping in.
At a Silicon Valley hotel recently, venture capitalists and interested parties heard funding pitches and watched demonstrations from 13 ed-tech start-ups backed by an incubator called Imagine K-12. One of them is Kodable, which aims to teach kids five years and younger the fundamentals of programming through a game where you guide a Pac-Man-esque fuzz ball.