Updated: Sunday November 24, 2013 MYT 7:46:44 AM
The new buzz language
Literacy in Coding is an advantage in this technology-driven economy.
“Everybody in this country should learn to program a computer, because it teaches you how to think”
— Steve Jobs
Software and computers are taking over the world. Almost everything we do require some form of programming and almost every student has access to computers, tablets and smart mobile phones. Are we doing enough in our schools to encourage computer science and prepare our students for this future?More than half of projected STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) jobs are in computing occupations. There is more demand for people who can write computer programmes than there is supply.
In the United States, there will be 1.4 million jobs in computer science over the next 10 years but only 400,000 will qualify for it.
Coding is the new buzz language of today’s tech-savvy world. No matter what the occupation is, it would surely coincide with using technology, and those who know how to code, which is the basis of computer science programming language, would surely be at an advantage.
Computer science develops students’ computational and critical thinking skills and shows them how to create, and not simply use new technologies.
This fundamental knowledge is needed to prepare students for the 21st century. Perhaps incorporating computer science studies in lessons will help improve the desired critical thinking in our students.
Our schools now teach students to use ICT as consumers and not as programmers, whereas the rest of the developed world is abuzz in the development of technological innovations by encouraging and building literacy befitting 21st century living.
It is evident that we are lagging behind by not tapping into this progress at an early stage, simultaneously with the rest of the world.
While others are moving on at warp speed with progress in innovation in the language of Coding, computer science and innovations in STEM, we are still hung up on the national language issue. Again, we reiterate that the Teaching and Learning of Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI) is about gaining knowledge and not about the national language. We cannot wait for someone to translate the lessons of computer programming when the development happens in real time.
Hence, we must give students the choice of acquiring the knowledge in the lingua franca of STEM, especially in the areas of computer science and get on with it. But it seems the priority for education in the country is politically skewed social engineering instead of letting our children really learn, be curious, think and explore. If we continue on this path, we will not be able to see the forest for the trees. We need to move on.
We have to wake up to the call of the 21st century’s lifestyle, job opportunities, building human capital and experts who are able to thrive in this era. We are the first generation in this world ever to use technology in such a trendy and futuristically cultured way. We need to be on par with the world in creating technological innovations and prospects instead of just being mere consumers of these innovations.
There is a boy named Lim Ding Wen who was nine years old in 2009 when he first created his drawing software for the Apple IIGS programme. He gained recognition as the world’s youngest iPhone application developer, with his hit creation called Doodle Kids. Ding Wen is a Malaysian living in Singapore. He created this application for his younger sisters to play at drawing on mobile gadgets.
His father, a Penangite who is a content developer for mobile application software, is one of the factors of his successes. A lesson learnt from Ding Wen’s accomplishment can be emulated if children are given the opportunity and encouragement to start Coding early in their lives. Ding Wen is already a technopreneur at the tender age of nine. Imagine what he can achieve by the time he is 20. Could he be the next Mark Zuckerberg? Can we create more of these gifted technopreneurs?
Computer science is already a subject in schools in China, the United Kingdom and Australia. Malaysia needs to emulate a computer science standard which is focused on creation and not just the use of software and other computing tools. And we also need to address the development and the setting of standards for computer science teachers.
What we can do now is to start small and give the opportunity to students who are able to proceed with the lingua franca of STEM and start learning to code.
There are many Coding tutorials which offer free services as well as applications and software available on the web. People do not need to be geniuses to code. Anyone as young as six years old can learn to code. Start with the most simple and basic.
Dec 9 is the start of the Computer Science Education Week and the launching of “The Hour of Code” where people from six to 106 years old can join in and follow the many tutorials prepared for the most basic Coding. Teachers can host this with minimal preparation and by using no digital device at all. Big names in technology such as Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates would be featured in the tutorials and the whole world is doing it at the same time. Students can learn simple Coding by programming kid-friendly characters like the Angry Bird to move and turn.
“The Hour of Code” will see participation from 154 countries, the biggest effort in history to get people interested in Coding. Malaysia has a few groups, schools and university students who have registered for “The Hour of Code”. As it stands, there are five international/private schools, namely Mont Kiara International School, International School @ Park City, Cempaka Schools, Sri KDU International School and Alice Smith School. Two national schools which have registered to participate in “The Hour of Code”. are surprisingly not urban schools.
One school is a rural school in Sarawak called SK Long Sobeng Tinjar, located in a village by the river between Miri and Brunei. The other school is SJK (T) Ladang Vallambrosa Kapar, Klang. Kudos to both these national schools for rising to the occasion.
Of those countries outside North America (the United States and Canada) with the most schools participating and able to follow with the lingua franca of STEM are India and the UK. Developing Commonwealth countries like Nigeria, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have more groups participating in “The Hour of Code” than Malaysia. Malaysians who have not yet registered should take this golden opportunity to do so. It can be done at home.
Science and mathematics taught in its lingua franca of English is about acquiring knowledge in its original form. The progress of science and innovation these days is so rapid that new STEM knowledge should be acquired as it happens, and the fastest way possible is through the Internet. Coding tutorials such as these cannot wait for translations.
Science is about setting trends, stimulating ideas through collaboration with like-minded smart people to develop and build a better future for us all. We cannot afford to miss the opportunities presented to this generation and succumb to the old and jaded ways of doing things.
Malaysia must progress on par with the rest of the world because we can. There is no stopping us, we are only limited by our imagination. So start small. Learn to code. It is the future. Without computer science, nothing much works. We should be part of creating the future.
My daughters and I are taking “The Hour of Code”. Are you? Visithttp://csedweek.org/ and join in.