Kids: Program or be programmed

Should kids be required to learn computer coding?

This week marks the start of Computer Science Education Week, and part of that is a campaign called an "Hour of Code," where everyone from President Obama to Angela Bassett is urging kids to try computer coding for just an hour. Some in the tech world say it's about time.

After all, they say, to be a savvy consumer of technology, you have to understand how it works. That means knowing how to write programming code, says Douglas Rushkoff, an author and digital literacy advocate.

"In a course where kids are learning critical thinking and critical studies, they can be looking at and analyzing the biases of different media like websites, like social networks," he says.

Rushkoff says knowing how to build websites and applications will help kids understand that Facebook, for instance, isn't about making friends, but about data mining. He says it's important to know how digital programs work from the ground up.

Dan Hoffman, who teaches education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, says some fear more computer education means less time for curriculum staples like english and science.

"There's always a battle being an educator as  there's kind of that 'one more thing' phenomenon," he says. That is, another thing stacked onto an already full curriculum plate.

But he says if that one more thing is tech instruction, most teachers are all about it. So this semester he's teaching a brand new course: "Computer Programming in the K-8 Classroom." 

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