Last month T4A.org co-hosted an online TechTable with the Reinventors Network on how to reinvent our education system for a more digital future (full recap here). The panel was in agreement that changes needed to be made to curriculum and school infrastructure, but what was less clear was what those changes should be.
One question posed by panelist Nell Hurley, Director of Communications at EducationSuperHighway.org, really stuck with me: If we bring computer science into the curriculum, what do we have to give up? How would what we learn on a day-to-day basis have to change?
I thought this was a really interesting question. Looking back at my time in high school, our schedules were pretty full and, aside from electives, we didn’t have a lot of flexibility in choosing our classes. The core subjects of math, science, English, and history were obviously required and electives were key because they gave us the opportunity to explore our interests. So what gives? Where does a requirement for computer science fit in? The first thought, in most people’s minds, is that it would be a math or science class. But how do you swap out the ones we already have and deem necessary? Can Chemistry go? Can we replace Geometry?
The truth is: all the subjects are important, including computer science, and we shouldn’t have to compromise on any of them. All of this fell into place for me when reading an article published on a local Boston news site. The article suggested that we don’t necessarily need to give anything up to accommodate a computer science education but that these computer science skills could be integrated into all classes. The author focused on one particular school in the Boston area, Beaver Country Day School, where teachers and students are starting to incorporate this multifaceted approach to learning. For example, the article described an English class in which “one student created a visual learning tool by coding one of the famous murder scenes [in Macbeth], and it helped the class understand the text better.”¹
In hindsight, it seems so obvious. Of course we should integrate computer science into ALL subjects. We know how far coding and technology have gotten us in the world. We know that it has enabled us not only to progress in math and science fields but it has also changed how we perceive and use things like art, literature, and history. It many ways it has changed how we think. Chair of the Math Department at Beaver Country Day School, Rob McDonald, put it perfectly: “If you view coding as one of the new basics in the world that we are in, then it makes sense that students learn to write code in English, and history and science classes.”²
What a great way to put it: “it makes sense.” In a lot of ways, that’s what tech is all about. Identifying a problem and finding the simple, though not always obvious, solution that makes sense. As Ali Partovi and Ricardo Salvador put it in our most recent Online TechTable, technology isn’t necessarily about creating things on a computer or in a lab, it’s really “just implementing a relentless coherence and focus on an issue until a breakthrough is made.” Technology is allowing us to foresee a world where “we can’t” is no longer a part of our vocabulary. Let’s embrace that world for education now. Let’s stop saying that we can’t implement computer science, because we can. Code.org, Beaver Country Day School, and others have shown us this. If we scale this model further, we can begin to see an education system where computer science and coding is as much a part of the school day as reading and writing.
¹In a Boston school, computer code in every class. (2014, October 22). CBS News. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/in-a-boston-school-computer-code-in-every-class/
²In a Boston school, computer code in every class.