Coding, the ability to read and write the language of computer software, is considered an important future skill, a fluency in the common langue of a connected, technological, global economy. In Finland, they are using chess, a game at least 1,300 years old, to teach it. You may say, “Who cares what they’re doing in Finland?” We should.
Content knowledge skills are relatively easy to learn, standardize and assess. That means they’re also easy to automate. As AI and education expert Stuart Elliott has pointed out, computer literacy capabilities surpassed 30% of workers in developed countries in 2016. By 2026, this number will be 60%. As for numeracy skills, including math and data analysis, computers will outperform nearly 100% of workers.
Toy robots are nothing new. In the 1980s, the R2D2-like Tomy Verbot or the clunky Milton Bradley Big Trak let kids program their movements or actions using voice commands or a keypad. The marketing for those robots focused mostly on the fun -- and, in the case of the Big Trak, the ability to deliver an apple to your dad. These days, toy companies have a different message for parents as they hawk their coding toys: Your kids will have fun, but they’ll also be prepared for the jobs of the future.
My initial experience using a coding and robotic tool has forever changed my outlook on not only the clear benefits my students gained but also just how easy it can be for integrating into whatever short period of time a teacher is working with. With so many coding and robotics tools coming out all the time, it can be overwhelming which is best or where to even start. Teachers should not be afraid to incorporate coding and robotics into their classroom.
Today, the internet provides unlimited access to high-quality, free and educational resources for almost any age or skill group. And yet, these critical career paths lack awareness and excitement. Many nonprofit organizations are making it their mission to change that, upsetting outdated models in education and, subsequently, recruiting.
Knowing how the programs on their computers are constructed seems like a worthwhile thing even if a student never writes a single line of code outside of school. To understand the architecture is a form of power, and while I cannot claim my individual experiences with students as dispositive to the whole, many of them use their computers and phones uncritically, and prove to be not great problem solvers when it comes to operating in the digital realm.
The trepidation surrounding artificial intelligence and machine learning hasn’t subsided. Many educators wonder how possible is it that machine learning could replace the tasks and jobs we’ve trained for, leaving many without employment? What happens when artificial intelligence takes over? The answer is that we will become more creative. As humans, we have characteristics that no machine will develop: empathy and innovation.
While it may seem like these companies are competing in the education market simply to broaden their consumer base and give back a little, their collective strategy is much more concerning. Tech oligarchs are pushing skills like coding in education to train their own future labor force -- and pay them low wages.
As soon as Cue was out of the box, the boys started having fun with it. This device is designed for ages 10 to 15, and I think my boys are just outside of the right age range. Bucky isn't able to read so he needed help using the robot. And, Jerome enjoyed it for a little bit, but it couldn't compete with video games and girls. There are several accessories you can get to go with Cue, including the Sketch Kit, which we got to test out.
“You can’t take an ethics course from 50 or even 25 years ago and drop it in the middle of a computer science program and expect it to grab people or be particularly applicable,” Baker says. “We are looking to encourage ways of teaching ethics that make sense in a computer science program, that make sense today, and that make sense in understanding questions of data.”