Why the Future Will be Made by Creators, Not Consumers | WIRED

“Megan Smith, Chief Technology Officer of the United States and former Google executive, wants every child to be able to code.  That’s a sweeping but practical vision. If we’re teaching students the languages of letters and numbers to be able to speak, understand, and impact this world — math, science, technology, and code must be part of that knowledge. If we want students to be able to understand the technology that they use every day, then we need to start providing those building blocks from an early age.

The ability to code enables young people to become creators rather than consumers. Students with this creative capacity and technical literacy will hold the power in the future. They are the next generation of entrepreneurs, and, as some teenagers and younger students have shown us, they are already the entrepreneurs of today.

No Coders Left Behind

Countries are starting to realize that mandating coding in the classroom could be the key. This year, England will become the first country to require programming curriculum in their schools, starting from age 5 and going through age 16. In the United States, STEM interest originated from initial consumer attention and has been largely carried along and encouraged by parents who teach their kids and teachers who use engaging online tools. But overall, STEM is still slowly working its way into educational systems.

Bringing STEM into the classroom isn’t just a matter of providing computers and tablets to students or giving teachers a one-day workshop. Often, it introduces a new model to learning, one that focuses on experiential and discovery-based learning.  Take Smith, who credits her own entry into STEM through hands-on projects and experiential learning, despite an early education at a resource-strapped inner city school. As she told The New York Times, the difference back then was that ‘our teachers believed in hands-on active learning — there was a mandatory science fair, which was critical. We just had to do this stuff.’

Teaching the Teachers

Learning by doing  is what has largely driven the STEM education efforts of after-school projects, community activities, and online tutorials that have tried to fill in the gaps. In order to scale this type of learning to more students, teachers need their own education and training on STEM, so that they can in turn teach in the classroom.

Organizations like the nonprofit Code.org offer free professional development workshops for educators who want to teach coding to students in grades K-5. They’re also bringing coding into school districts, with missions like Smith’s to make coding education available to every child. In 2013, Code.org announced its first Hour of Code awareness campaign, a one-hour introduction to computer science through tutorials that walk students through coding basics and activities, including creative projects producing games, apps, and drawings. (This year’s Hour of Code initiative will take place December 8-14, with corporations taking part a few weeks earlier.)

London-based Makerversity combines learning by doing and teacher training with its learning initiative, Makerversity DIY. By providing both training and lesson plans to teach challenges such as how to transform a webcam into a microscope, Makerversity helps teachers incorporate practical elements into hands-on projects. In a similar approach, Kano has also provided training for teachers as they introduce their computer making kits.

To compete with the rest of the world, we need stronger STEM education for today’s youth. By formally bringing coding into the classroom, and incorporating both learning-by-doing projects and problem-solving activities, we can better prepare our youth to take control of technology, rather than be controlled by it.

Diana Stepner is the VP of Innovation Partnerships and Developer Relations at Pearson.”

via Why the Future Will be Made by Creators, Not Consumers | WIRED.