Schools Adding Computer Coding to Curriculum

Students as young as kindergartners are learning computer programming as Massachusetts schools join a growing national movement to prepare students for 21st-century jobs.

Once considered an extracurricular activity for geeks, coding increasingly is being seen as both an essential life skill and a potential pathway toward becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg.

“The coding craze is the biggest uptick in education in years,” said Elliot Soloway, a professor of computer science at the University of Michigan. “What we’re seeing is a new content area being incorporated into the curriculum at lightning speed, faster than any other content area has been assimilated into teaching. Schools are desperate for the new, and coding’s not just any new; it’s one that has currency.“

Since December, 1 million students have enrolled in an online computer science course offered by Code.org, a nonprofit founded by Harvard graduate Hadi Partovi and backed by Facebook’s Zuckerberg and Microsoft’s Bill Gates. The group recently announced partnerships with 30 school districts, including Andover, Arlington, Ashland, Brookline, Littleton, Milton, Needham, Newton, Reading, Waltham, Wayland and Wellesley.

Newton Public Schools is using Code.org to help teach the foundational skills for coding in grade 2 and build on that in middle school, said Leo Brehm, the district’s director of information technology.

This summer, a Newton North High School teacher also will undergo training through Code.org to teach basic computer science in grades 9 and 10 and more advanced classes in grades 11 and 12, Brehm said.

“Computer science is a natural outlet to exercise critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and it enhances mathematics, engineering and robotics,” Brehm said. “There’s also a shortage of people in the workforce who can code.”

Boston Public Schools expects to become a formal district partner of Code.org within the next year or two, after it prepares its schools from an infrastructure and staffing standpoint — work that is well underway, a BPS spokesman said.

Article from The Boston Herald