I live in the Chicagoland area (actually, I grew up in the Chicagoland area and live right over the border in WI; however, it’s close enough!) and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) announced in December 2013 that they’ll be teaming up with Code.org which provides free computer science curriculum and professional development for teachers (Please see the announcement and video here: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-cps-computer-science-plan-met-1210-20131210,0,1134596.story). I believe Mayor Rahm Emanuel stated it fairly simply: just as “we” learned the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic, our children need to learn foundational computer skills and core STEM fundamentals regardless of the field which they choose to go into.
I know there are some of you who do not embrace this thought and I’m okay with that. However, I believe we live in a different day and age. Such that, most children have access to technology in their home or within a community resource such as a public library. I’ve seen it first hand with my own children, when attending school they literally had to “unplug” their lives and learn as I did as a child. Some would argue, “…what’s wrong with that? The way I learned was good enough for me and it’ll be good enough for them””.” Well, I’m not going to fight the argument of “good enough”. There’s PLENTY of articles on how the US educational system if failing our future generation and we’re falling behind our peers worldwide.
Children, by nature, are inquisitive. Some have more motivation than others (i.e. using my own children as a reflection point). However, children today have ubiquitous access to knowledge far beyond to what I had to as a child. Case in point, my son is a Minecraft wizard! He LOVES it! So I gave him a challenge for the next six months. Learn to program Java. Simple enough and I gave him two resources; 1. Code.org and 2. Programming Tutorials (a Windows 8 app: http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/informatik-tutorials/4632a265-4d8c-416f-b718-085aca0f9322) The goal is to learn coding so he can create his own mod for Minecraft. If he achieves that, we’ll discuss sending him to a summer camp for Minecraft programming.
Two skills I’m attempting to engrain in him is ubiquitous access and self-guided learning. Just knowing that you have the potential to have access to anything really does nothing. Having access to a select set of resources however not having the ability to leverage those resources in a meaningful way is useless as well. Coupling those two disparate concepts become quite powerful when combined. Hopefully CPS will embrace these same changes ahead!