Friday, February 12, 2016

Parlez Vous HTML? Coding as a Foreign Language

Yes, there is some thinking-differently going on, at least in Florida. There is a bill in the Florida House of Representatives to make in-person and virtual computer-science classes count as Foreign Language credits towards graduation.  THAT. IS. AWESOME!


I am all for changing the way we teach and what we teach and where we teach in this country. I would love for us to break out of our traditional classrooms of desks in rows and teachers as sages, and let students have more choice in subjects they, and have more options of courses.  For example, not every student needs calculus, but EVERYONE needs Personal Finance - and yet, it is not an option in most school districts, or if it is, it is often an add on. (See my previous posts on Financial Literacy if interested....1) Math Curriculum - What Should We Be Teaching 2) Financial Literacy - Bring It Back to School! and  3) Financial Literacy - 
Real-World Math, Really!)

Math itself is a foreign language, so the idea to make coding officially designated as a foreign language is just brilliant. Now, granted, it's just at the higher ed level - public colleges and universities, but it's a start.  I think K-12 schools should adopt a similar approach.  Computer-science is such a vital skill these days, and so few students actually take computer-science in large part because it doesn't fit in the path of required courses for graduation.  I look at my own daughter, a recent graduate with a degree in Advertising, who has had a difficult job finding work because she was lacking coding skills, which were NOT part of her advertising/marketing curriculum. And yet -
every job out there for an entry-level marketing/graphic designer requires the ability to code for websites, emails, etc. She is thankfully employed now, and is learning to code on the company' time, so she will be gaining some needed skills for future endeavors.  But the fact that she spent four years in college, and before that, four years in high school without the opportunity or the push/requirement to take computer science is ludicrous. Especially when she is in a field that REQUIRES this skill.  How can it NOT BE TAUGHT in the very program she graduated from (and she was at a very prestigious school in a very prestigious program - Creative Advertising at UT in Austin).

My point here - lets rethink the requirements for students as they go through high school and college. What skills do they need in the careers they want to pursue? They should have choice to choose subjects that will benefit them in the future so they are, as the popular lingo these days goes, "college and career ready". Let them take computer-science as either one of their math requirements (instead of say Algebra II or PreCalculus) or as Florida proposes, a foreign language requirement. I know my daughter would have been a lot better off with a couple semesters of computer science instead of the required two-semesters of Spanish, for the career she has chosen. The same goes for Personal Finance - a very needed course for all students.  It should be an option and count towards graduation. Not everyone needs the traditional path of Algebra, Geometry, Algebra II, Trig, PreCalculus, Calculus. If a student plans to be a business major, Personal Finance is going to be a much bigger benefit than Trig.

Let's rethink our curriculum.  Let's making learning relevant, useful, and personal. Coding as a Foreign Language? Hell yes!

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