By Ramiro Zuniga, Ed.D.
(Part 2 of 2)
For those of you unfamiliar with my experience and credentials, I have an associate’s degree in industrial data processing, a bachelor of business administration in computer information systems, a master’s degree in educational technology, and a doctorate in educational leadership. Most of my career has been spent in the K-12 technology arena. A good portion of my career has involved creating and supporting many software systems as a computer programmer. Through my career and educational study, I have had the opportunity to interact and learn from many educators with varying degrees and experience of their own. This is the perspective from which I write.
My first issue with the idea of teaching every student to program is more with what the supporters of this idea are saying. In their eagerness to “spread the word,” they are claiming that it is easy to learn how to write a computer program. This is true only of simple programs. More complex programming requires a lot of thought and creativity.
I understand that this is more of a marketing scheme intended to generate interest, but I think it distorts the realities of what is required from someone wanting to be a computer programmer.
Through my educational and professional journey, I have seen many make the attempt to become computer programmers. As with other disciplines, many were not able to complete their degree plan and either dropped out or changed majors. Others obtained their degrees and began their careers as computer programmers only to find that the choice was not the right one for them.
Speaking first hand, a career as a computer programmer is a very rewarding option. The one thing that I want to make clear is that it is not easy to accomplish. As with any career, programming requires a great amount of dedication, imagination, and discipline.
While I agree with the sentiment that technology will continue to be more and more integrated in our daily lives, I don’t believe that computer programming or technology careers are a fit for all.
Yes, there will be a need for computer programmers, but most individuals will be users of technology and not designers. Like today, there will still be careers for builders, teachers, mechanics, and artists, none of which require knowledge in computer programming.
Let me finish this post by clarifying my position on this idea: I am all in favor of making computer programming a part of any curriculum but as an elective. This would allow those students who have an interest in computer programming to enroll in such courses.
I think a core curriculum that includes advanced mathematics and advanced reading serve to create a better foundation for higher-level thinking than a course in computer programming. I would also suggest that middle school is the most appropriate and not elementary.
As I stated in Part 1 of this post, I think pursuing any avenue that can lead to learning is a good thing.
What do you think? Share your thoughts below!