Coding in the Curriculum?

By Ashley Campbell.

I’ve been in the tech industry from a consultant/recruitment perspective for just over a year and a half now, and have had my eyes opened to what goes into everything from the building of websites and web services, to a complex mobile application to embedded/graphics development which is to say the least all takes an impressive knowledge base to comprehend let alone work with.

So I couldn’t help but get the feeling as to where was all this on the subject list between English literature and Geography classes?

Quite frankly software development/engineering is a profession which is largely dominated by those who had the mindset to ask how things work. Put simply there were those of us who got Super Nintendo’s for Christmas (Replace for your first games console) and enjoyed countless hours of gaming magic, and those who got straight into wondering how it worked and reverse engineered it.

Where I disagree is that those people should be the only ones in the industry, there’s an entire group of people who should be shown the way and it should be part of the education system now more than ever.

Just like everyone is taught to write but only a few become novel writers or journalists, everyone should be taught how to write code and allow those who flourish to get into the industry should they so wish, or continue onto university level education where the naturally curious ‘start’ their formal education on this.

Now there are several pitfalls which would come from this and would need to be ironed out.

Firstly, what becomes the standard programming language that all kids learn first? The industry is split enough as it is as to which is the best programming language but all schools would have to be singing from the same hymn sheet. Microsoft’s infrastructure for coding would be an easy choice as the service could be bolted in to the education system better than most, and the levels of support you get from them would trump the open source community from the perspective of what a school system would need. Now there are downfalls from this but its worth stressing that those who want to move into development as a hobby and a passion will find C++/Java etc in their own way, and will have the very basic tools to learn those from scratch. In an overly simple comparison that’s like saying someone wouldn’t learn to paint with oil or acrylic because they only every used watercolour at school.

The second point is quite simply who would teach this? People working as developers now are quite simply earning too much doing what they do to suddenly want to work on teaching their craft to the masses. The teaching population would have to be made up of ex industry professionals who want to try their hand at a new profession, as if it’s an educational standard then like any classroom it won’t be full of people wanting to learn what is being taught so the person at the front of the class would have to ‘want’ to do it. This isn’t a lesson by which the R.E teacher can jump in and cover for and an effort will have to be made to fast track professionals who want to teach (similar to the initiative for bankers) until we can churn out enough qualified teachers to make such a thing a reality.

What would the benefits be for us as a society?

Firstly a greater knowledge of the devices that have consumed our lives, technology has raced ahead year on year, our ability to use this technology is steadily keeping up, but the gulf between this and our understanding of how these things work is large to say the very least.

Also innovation will sky-rocket as a result. Why are Facebook, Twitter and Instagram ‘worth’ billions? Because entrepreneurial minds combined with technical ability are a rare breed. There are more people who have ideas of things that will make our lives easier or more enjoyable than those who have the tools to bring those ideas to a reality, and while this situation lines the pockets of people like Mark Zuckerberg et al handsomely, society suffers.

Lastly the point of women in technology. Girls aren’t encouraged into a life of technology generally speaking and so without access to this in the school system it’s a world that they may never see. I’m humble enough to admit that women are generally advanced to males at the time of secondary education, if this was put to the task of software development then I feel that there would be a decent enough percentage to at least carve into the male dominated industry as far as hands on coding is concerned.

So yes I’m by no means saying that software engineers have been getting an easy ride as they’ve got no competition, they are very intelligent and highly skilled people who are working on some fantastic projects to say the least, this is more a case of a new and relevant skills which hopefully becomes a basic knowledge of the masses.


Taken from: http://ashdigitalupdates.wordpress.com/