Originally posted in EduTopia

From the cell phone alarm that wakes them to the tablets used to chat with friends and complete homework, today’s students are surrounded by computer technology. It is ubiquitous, and critical to daily routines. Yet few understand how technology works, even as it becomes ever more intrinsic to how we solve business and community challenges.

Today, computer science helps retailers determine how to grow sales, and it ensures that law enforcement officers are in the right places to maintain public safety. It is the foundation for the smart grid, and it fuels personalized medicine initiatives that optimize outcomes and minimize treatment side effects. Computing algorithms help organizations in all industries solve problems in new and more effective ways.

Our economic stability and national security depend on a population with solid computer science skills and coding literacy. As such, the future of education must focus on making computer science an integral part of every child’s education to ensure that students of all genders and backgrounds have a chance to pursue these opportunities.

5 Steps for Taking Action Now

While a comprehensive, long-term plan is needed to incorporate computer science education in all schools and to ensure that students are prepared for the jobs of tomorrow, there are five simple steps that teachers, schools, parents, and industry can take today to integrate computer science into classrooms and begin to overcome the above-mentioned challenges:

1. Professional Development

Teachers can register for online or in-person teacher training courses to learn how to teach a computer science curriculum or integrate basic computer science principles into existing lesson plans.

2. Career Education

Parents, teachers, and schools can educate students about the career opportunities available to those who get computer science degrees. While it could mean working for technology giants like Apple and Oracle, students can also use computer science skills to advance healthcare research or help a non-profit build a case for government funding.

3. Student Incentives

Teachers can offer students extra credit for using free online learning tools to develop basic computer science skills and create a project. (A good place to start is the Computer Science Teachers Association.)

4. Mentor Programs

Industry and schools can formalize a mentorship program that will encourage and support students to learn more about computer science and develop their skills inside and outside the classroom — via after-school programs or co-taught lessons.

5. Coding for Kids

Parents can help kids develop confidence in their problem-solving abilities and explore computer science in action in their lives and communities with age-appropriate coding apps such as Scratch for younger children or MakeGamesWithUs for high school students.

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