Who will be considered literate in the 21st century?

“Whether you want to uncover the secrets of the universe, or you just want to pursue a career in the 21st century, basic computer programming is an essential skill to learn.“ Stephen Hawking

Our brightest students are no longer questioning the usefulness of the content they are taught at school but are seeking out what they need to be truly literate online. These same students would particularly question why they do not have more opportunity at school to be taught how to code, except for the fact they are getting on with learning this much needed skill at home. They know it is not enough just to be taught, they want to learn. They know that learning how to learn is much more important than any set body of knowledge. How are they learning to code without teachers? The likes of Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are more than just encouraging students to learn coding, they are actively assisting people to gain these skills with sites like Code Academy that provide a range of opportunities.

In my own English classes students are very excited about coding and many are spending long hours at home learning different programming languages via Code Academy.  One 15-year-old student in my Year 10 class, Bailey, says it succinctly when asked to reflect on why he is so willing to work independently to learn to code: “…programming in class is interesting and fun to learn as it is a benefit for our education and future. Technology is expanding rapidly and programmers are in demand throughout the world. There are many career opportunities…coding in the future will be as important as learning a language.”

Who would argue with that?

The ability to manipulate symbols, and our thumbs, keeps humans at the top of the food chain. People who can code are needed in many diverse fields and school systems provide few opportunities for students to learn these skills. Prior to the 20th century those who were powerfully literate had a great advantage culturally over the poorly educated. The growth of mass schooling in the industrial era led to many more citizens becoming literate and numerate. The same process is taking place, albeit slowly, with coding.

Today, those who can code are the new scribes and the World Wide Web allows rapid sharing of skills and ideas. Parents and teachers do not necessarily personally need coding skills but should create the opportunities, wherever possible, to assist students pursue their passions, especially when our society will increasingly need their skills to solve our most pressing challenges.

This piece was originally posted at ABC Splash

Featured image: cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Darcy Moore: http://flickr.com/photos/darcymoore/9197409811/

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