This year, the week of December 7th to 13th has been declared Computer Science Education Week. This is an annual program organized through a grassroots effort by code.org and volunteers / partners. This program has been run since 2009, but this is the first year that Bio::Neos has been involved in the effort... and it was awesome! Seeing the amazement and understanding in young faces as computer science is de-mystified in front of them, hearing about them breaking 1000 lines of code in 2 days, and having witnessed first-hand the passion and excitement building in these students is truly an inspiring and encouraging experience.
I had the opportunity to visit with students from three schools this year and talk about my experiences, work with the students through basic programming, and answer their questions about what we do daily in our profession.
- The 5th and 6th graders of Coralville Central Elementary
- The 8th graders from Solon middle school
- The 3rd graders from Kenwood Elementary in Cedar Rapids
Why did we decide it was important that Bio::Neos was represented as a part of this effort? Simple: we believe it is important for our community. We believe in the idea behind an hour of code. We think that most everyone, at a very young age, possesses the capability to understand the logical thinking required to program computers and that it is important that they understand what that means and why it is important.
Do we think everyone should pursue a career in software development? No.
Quite the opposite: we believe that every career will be enhanced by an understanding of how software works and is created in the near future (if not already).
Programming a computer is a form of communication. There is a vocabulary, and rules (grammar), and many different valid ways of expressing the same idea. Computers might be a little more strict with that grammar than humans (unless you are talking about web browsers...) but the general concept applies. If you use the right words and punctation in the right order, you can express your intention to the computer. It may seem like a one sided conversation at times, but ask anyone that has written hundreds of lines of code followed by a successful compile and execution, and you will see the response we see when a program executes flawlessly, just as was intended.
Given that opinion, and the every-increasing presence of software in everything that we use and interact with, don't you think everyone could benefit from learning that form of communication? Much like mathematics and science (the core of our structured education), computer science is approaching the status of a fundamental skill and we want to do our part to help promote understanding and interest in that skill. At a minimum, every student should have the opportunity to pursue that education (like learning an instrument or a foreign language).
In summary: See you next year, CSEdWeek! We plan to continue to do everything we can do to help.
(Don't feel like you have to wait until then though, if you want us to participate in an event now -- just ask!)