In times past, Canada based its prosperity on the resources contained within its borders but today two-thirds of global GDP is created in the service sector – a sector in which a “constructed advantage” is gained from the brainpower of a skill workforce not the raw materials and processing equipment contained in the country. According to the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC), Canada’s prosperity can be challenged by any nation for the first time since its founding. For policy makers, the stakes are high because computing skills are now seen as an indicator for a nation’s economic competitiveness.
According to the University of Waterloo’s David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science, which is one of the leading computer science units in the world, “…about 24% of all university spin-off companies in Canada are from the University of Waterloo and computer science plays a prominent role in many of these.” Governments around the world are receiving pressure to change the manner in which computer technology is taught. In the United Kingdom, the Royal Society, the Association for Learning Technology, Computing at School,and the British Computer Society are just four groups pushing for change. President Obama presented a new challenge to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy, and Estonia has launched a nationwide scheme to teach school kids from the age of seven(7) to nineteen(19) how to write computer code.
Keeping up to date on current software is not enough for today’s students. By the time they get to the workforce, the software will be dramatically different and will continue to change at ever-increasing rates. Students need to be thinking about and preparing for the software that will be used in tomorrow’s workplaces. According to theorist Douglas Rushkoff, “computer class can’t be about teaching kids to use today’s software; it must be about teaching kids to make tomorrow’s software… we can program or be programmed.” By learning to program software code, students will gain the ability to direct the way computers are used in the future. Even if students never become exceptional programmers, students will learn to think in logical, creative ways to direct program creators to design more efficiently. This level of competence will allow them to take control of these electronic devices and not be controlled by them. Rushkoff says “the real question is, do we direct technology, or do we let ourselves be directed by it and those who have mastered it?”
The saying ‘Practice makes perfect’ implies that the more we practice a skill, the more we can improve the practiced ability. Programming video games offers students an engaging and fun way to practice math, physics, creativity, problem solving, and communication skills in a virtual content while expanding their logical problem solving skills. Since Rowntree Montessori Schools (RMS) started teaching students to program computers using event driven languages, we have seen an increase in the critical thinking abilities of our students as well as their ability to perform deep level evaluation of the creative programs to ensure the user enjoys the experience.
Seeing younger students play and enjoy their games not only inspired both the younger students to start thinking about creating their own computer programs but also generated an eagerness for the grades 7 & 8 students to create even more sophisticated games to show off what they could do. By using the computers for more than typing reports and presenting projects, students gain transferable Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) skills and take control of the electronic devices they use every day. Without math, video games would not exist; teaching our students to program computers allows them to practice their STEM skills today for the careers they will have tomorrow.
While exercising their logical and sequential thinking skills, students begin to generate experience with the cause and effect of process control. They are able to see the results almost instantaneously and receiving these instant rewards motivates them to challenge themselves even more. Once students see what the previous years’ students have produced, they are driven to create more sophisticated programs which are capable of expanded functionality.
The following video titled ‘What most schools don’t teach’ provides an insight into the significance of computer programming from some of the most influential people of our time such as Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, and Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook co-founder.
We encourage you to please help make others aware of this critical component in Nurturing Tomorrow’s Achievers by choosing to share this post with them. Thank you.