Is Coding the New Literacy?

Mother Jones (06/16/14) Tasneem Raja 

Teaching basic coding literacy to all students in public schools could help realize a diversity of talent that would transform society as profoundly as reading and writing once did. Although recent coding pushes have led some to believe everyone needs to learn the specifics of programming languages, this level of detail might not be as relevant as learning the fundamentals of what computers can do. Computational thinking might surpass coding skills in importance to useful applications of technology in today's society. Microsoft's Jeannette Wing popularized the term computational thinking, which she says is not limited to programmers and encompasses "solving problems, designing systems, and understanding human behavior." Knowing how to write code is useless without an appropriate goal toward which to apply it. "Unless you can think about the ways computers can solve problems, you can't even know how to ask the questions that need to be answered," says University of Pittsburgh professor Annette Vee, who studies the spread of computer science literacy. Reading and writing literacy began as a skill for a select few and then expanded, and coding literacy is similarly moving from an elite group to the masses. Today's most significant breakthroughs, not only in technical fields but in all fields, involve big datasets, powerful algorithms, and people able to leverage both.


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