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Computer science Open For All: 6 Computer Science Projects From MIT Media Lab That You Can Try Today Open For All: 6 Computer Science Projects From MIT Media Lab That You Can Try Today Every great educational institution has one common quality – innovation. MIT Media Labs is one center of excellence which promotes multifaceted thinking, and its “prime directive” is to focus on developments which are at the... Read More is a rather important subject that more kids have an interest in now than ever before. But should coding and all the various elements that go with it be a part of the school curriculum? We want to know your thoughts on the teaching of programming in schools.

Crowdfunding Fails To Deliver

To answer this week’s question please scroll down the page until you see the poll staring back at you. But first, we need to look at the results from last week, when we asked, “Have You Ever Used A Crowdfunding Website?

Out of a total of 103 votes, 44.7% chose Yes, I funded someone else’s dream, 39.8% chose I haven’t yet, but I might do in the future, 7.8% chose No, I don’t see the point, 3.9% chose Yes, I sought funding from others, 1.9% chose No, I think crowdfunding is a scam, and 1.9% asked, What is crowdfunding?

With so few people voting it’s impossible to draw any major conclusions from this particular poll. However, of those who did vote, the vast majority of people have either already been involved with crowdfunding Forget Kickstarter: How To Crowdfund From Your Own Website Forget Kickstarter: How To Crowdfund From Your Own Website Crowdfunding has taken off in a big way in the past few years. But you don't need to use a service like Kickstarter if you're already running your own popular website. Read More or plan to do so in the future. Which suggests this is a trend not likely to disappear anytime soon.

crowdfunding-poll-results

Comment Of The Week

We received a handful of great comments, including those from John J, Eric Jay, Ron, and likefunbutnot. Comment Of The Week goes to Hildy J, who earns our admiration and affection for this comment Have You Ever Used A Crowdfunding Website? [MakeUseOf Poll] Have You Ever Used A Crowdfunding Website? [MakeUseOf Poll] This week's MakeUseOf Poll is all about your experiences of using crowdfunding websites, AKA giving your money to complete and utter strangers. Read More :

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I crowdfunded a woman’s attempt to popularize micro satellite projects. Her particular satellite hasn’t got off the ground yet but she’s published various guides and helped other projects. I got nothing out of it besides satisfaction.

I also funded an artist’s attempt to make a clock which measured the seasons and year. The single hand makes one revolution per year. It was way late but I’ve had it on my wall for a couple of years now and I love it.

OTOH, I’ve bought into two technology products. The first eventually shipped a monstrosity that in no way resembled the images and the second, SmartyRing, while raising a Ferrari’s worth of money, has never even come up with a prototype they shared.

My advice – fund artists, not technology. Leonardo’s Last Supper was a much better investment than his orinthopter.

We chose this comment because it recounts one person’s experiences with crowdfunding, both positive and negative. The final sentence is rather good advice, especially if “artists” is replaced by “creators.” In other words, back the person, not the product.

Coding The Curriculum

There is a strong push at present to get kids coding. There are a multitude of online resources to help you learn to code Learn To Code: 10 Free And Fantastic Online Resources To Hone Your Skills Learn To Code: 10 Free And Fantastic Online Resources To Hone Your Skills Coding. A topic that is avoided by many. There are an abundance of free resources and tools, all of which are available online. Sure you could take some courses on the topic at a nearby... Read More , and the Hour Of Code Learn Coding On The Move With Codecademy’s Hour Of Code iOS App Learn Coding On The Move With Codecademy’s Hour Of Code iOS App The “Hour of Code” free app for iOS is an introductory effort that hopes to make it easier for busy professionals (and students) get a sense of what coding is all about. Read More is an attempt to get millions of youngsters learning the basics of computer science. Hell, even Barack Obama recently completed several programming tutorials Netflix Plans World Domination, Facebook Improves Search Options [Tech News Digest] Netflix Plans World Domination, Facebook Improves Search Options [Tech News Digest] Also, President Obama learns to code, Google releases Android Studio 1.0, using copyrighted music on YouTube videos, and 3D-printing The Imperial March. Read More , becoming the first U.S. President to code anything.

While computer science isn’t for everybody Coding Isn't For Everyone: 7 Tech Jobs You Can Get Without It Coding Isn't For Everyone: 7 Tech Jobs You Can Get Without It Don't be discouraged if you want to be a part of the tech field -- there are plenty of jobs for people who don't know how to code! Read More , some knowledge of coding could be vital for the future job prospects of the newest generations. Which leads to the MakeUseOf Poll question for this week… Should Coding Be Taught In Schools? As always, there are several options from which to choose.

Please vote in the poll above, and then explain in the comments why you voted that way.

Tell us the specific reasons you think coding should or should not be taught in schools. Or, alternatively, recount your personal experiences with learning how to code, whether at school or elsewhere.

The best Comment Of The Week will win our everlasting admiration and affection. Well, at least until we meet back here again this time next week.

Image Credit: HackNY.org via Flickr

  1. Von Adam Martinez
    December 20, 2014 at 12:39 am

    I never knew what coding was before college. I thought everything in the Information technology then was all about computers, what I mean is that I has nothing do with with how websites was made, how a simple program like VLC or chrome was brought into realization. I almost gave up my course at first because I didn't know what coding does to everyone else. Time to time, I embraced coding, I learned to love it and now I am reaping the fruit of doing that. First time coders know how hard is to simply print "Hello World". :D

  2. KT
    December 16, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    Look at it this way: My high school years were 1986-1990 (so it wasn't available, just basic and logo), I took French every year because I got enough credits from all my other courses. Now I'm a machinist/cnc and robotics programmer/industrial maintenance mechanic. If I could have had (in today's technology) c++, html5, python, etc available, I wouldn't have wasted 4 years on something I never use. Even elected classes in word, excel or terminal linux commands would be useful.

  3. A41202813GMAIL
    December 16, 2014 at 9:54 am

    Compulsory From Kindergarten Until Students Reach Teenage.

    Bad Grades Should Not Impair Any Student To Advance To The Next Year, Though.

    Cheers.

  4. J.O. Williams
    December 15, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    I can't take credit for this since it came from a 1980 to 1982 BYTE magazine.

    But "Knowing how to program (writing code) is equivalent to reading and writing in the 1600's".

    • dragonmouth
      December 15, 2014 at 10:32 pm

      “Knowing how to program (writing code) is equivalent to reading and writing in the 1600’s”.
      Let's not get carried away here! That statement is only an exuberant hyperbole from BYTE. Programming is not, and will not be, necessary for most occupations.

      As a long time programmer, I will tell you that not everyone can or should be a programmer. However, everyone should be "computer literate", i.e.have basic computer skills and knowledge.

  5. JackTheBlack
    December 15, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    I think that the children should be encouraged to learn also robot programming, not just programming in general. Moving actual objects, not just pixels on the screen, opens a whole new world of opportunities.

    Internet is filled with sites that teach this subject so that even children can follow, for example:
    http://easyrobotsimulator.com/

  6. Rokas
    December 15, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    I don't think everybody should be tought but those who want could be (as in my school in Lithuania.) Not everybody wants, needs coding, are able to code and think logicaly and express their ideas on code.

  7. Ellen
    December 15, 2014 at 4:45 am

    What would you take out of the already-crowded curriculum? We've already cut Arts, PE and Social Studies. You can't just keep adding things without taking something out. Although I agree that coding - or at least an understanding and appreciation of it - are essential, the same can be said for things we've already eliminated (e.g., music and industrial arts).

    • dragonmouth
      December 15, 2014 at 3:27 pm

      "We’ve already cut Arts, PE and Social Studies."
      Pray tell, what are the subjects that replaced them?

      "What would you take out of the already-crowded curriculum?"
      After having two kids go through local primary and secondary schools, I'm sure that irrelevant BS courses can be found in any curriculum. Many, if not all, of the touchy-feely courses implemented by "progressive educatators" can be replaced by relevant and usefull ones.

    • Ellen
      December 15, 2014 at 5:44 pm

      dragonmouth - The realities of public schools are too complex for a simple answer. As a well-qualified chemistry and computer science teacher who retired as soon as I was eligible, I can assure you that the changes to curriculum were not sought by teachers. Well-meaning people (politicians and parents) have demanded contradictory changes. You should talk to - and actually listen to - a public school teacher. What is relevant and useful depends on who you ask.

    • dragonmouth
      December 15, 2014 at 10:19 pm

      "The realities of public schools are too complex for a simple answer. "
      All I asked was what subjects replaced PE, Arts and SS in your district. I would like to compare that to the list of irrelevant subjects in our district.

      My wife is a certified teacher's aide in our school district so I am somewhat familiar with its politics.

      "You should talk to – and actually listen to – a public school teacher."
      That is why I would like to hear from you.

      To clarify - when I use the phrase "progressive educators" I am being facetious and I am NOT referring to teachers. I am talking about the so called experts that give us a new way of teach math and arithmetic every couple of years, the proponents of No Child Left Behind, those backers of Common Core, the functionaries that insist on more and more standardized and field tests.

    • Guy
      December 16, 2014 at 4:11 pm

      "Although I agree that coding – or at least an understanding and appreciation of it – are essential, the same can be said for things we’ve already eliminated (e.g., music and industrial arts)."

      None of these things, in my opinion, are essential. What is essential is that the student masters basic skills in the 'good old three Rs', and that they learn how to think critically, apply reason, and most importantly, learn how to learn.

      Much of what I believe is necessary was thrown out in most schools, at least in Canada, when philosophy was dropped from the secondary school curriculum. At the elementary level, logic could be taught through mathematics by introducing boolean math, logic gates, or other concepts that require more than rote learning of the mechanics of math.

      I like the idea of teaching some coding, possibly even in math classes, to introduce formal logic and reasoning. AS an introduction it wouldn't require much more than working with a simple language like Visual Basic, or even Scratch, as long as the concept of developing an algorithm to accomplish a goal came across clearly.

      If some students don't want to engage in this, or internalize the knowledge, it can be made more palatable by showing how we use algorithms and logic everyday. Baking a cake, tying your shoes, etc. All those actions require algorithms, logic, and reasoning to get the job done. It's just most people don't see it that way, they just learned to do these things without thinking about why or if that method was the best method.

      I believe that the lack of that kind of learning leads to the phenomenon I'm seeing in many people today. When faced with a specific task that they've been thoroughly trained to do, they can accomplish it. But if they are given a different, but somewhat similar task, they freeze. That's just sad.

    • Guy
      December 16, 2014 at 5:34 pm

      Ellen, I should have also said that I agree with you in principle, just differ a little on the details. And that's okay. Life is give and take, co-operation and compromise.
      I love that you gave a well-thought, well-reasoned comment. :)

  8. Tom
    December 14, 2014 at 9:47 pm

    The real pragmatic part of teaching programming in high school is this: if someone knows programming languages well enough to teach it/them, why would he spend his years in college taking the education courses required to obtain a teaching certificate and then why would he take a job at a teacher's salary? It's all about the personal economics.

    On another point, a programmer is often an introvert who enjoys the solitude and making something do exactly what he wants it to do. The unpredictability of trying to get kids to do what he wants them to do is not usually in the range. A teacher is often a social extrovert who has the capacity and practice for influencing others to do what he wants. Two different kinds of people.

    So, once you get the rare combination of a mixed programmer/teacher personality and skill set, you have to find the one crazy enough to take a salary at half what he can earn otherwise.

    Try to fill a nationwide high school course mandate with teachers from that slim candidate pool.

    • zachary campos
      December 15, 2014 at 10:35 am

      You are right. While the other kids were going outside getting wasted with their friends, I was sitting at home learning computer stuff. It's not something that you can teach kids that don't have an interest in the first place. Now I am in my 30's spending less time at the computer, doing what I should have been doing in high school. I could probably fit the programmer/teacher role. but if you want to get the kids to learn, you have to make it interesting to them. This means you'd have to teach them in a way that could possibly be frowned upon by those who run the school system.

    • dragonmouth
      December 15, 2014 at 3:19 pm

      @Tom:
      "why would he take a job at a teacher’s salary?"
      Because the salaries are pretty close? The salary depends on the district. In rural districts far from big cities, teachers make peanuts but in those areas working in IT does not pay that well, either. Close to large population and technology vcenters both teachers and programmers make quite good salaries.

    • Guy
      December 16, 2014 at 3:59 pm

      In many areas of Canada, a teacher earns more than a programmer. In Canada, most teachers are also part of a union so there is greater job security, a much greater pension, and often greater benefits than being a programmer.

      Of course there is also the altruistic benefit of teaching. Some people become teachers for more than money and a summer break. ;)

  9. bben
    December 14, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    For elementary and middle school children teaching actual coding would be a waste - Many of the teachers at that level are not all that computer literate themselves. In High School, possibly an elective - more concentrating on the concepts needed to program than a specific language. Then programming should be something taught in trade schools not universities. The university level would me far more theoretical instead of concentrating on just programming. However, a course at middle school or even earlier on basic computer literacy would be good - not programming - basic file structure would be about as advanced as it should get. Definitions, some base concepts and how to properly secure your own accounts.

    • dragonmouth
      December 15, 2014 at 3:10 pm

      "For elementary and middle school children teaching actual coding would be a waste"
      LOL. In this morning's paper, there is an article about 2nd graders in one of the local schools learning and using Java Script. The intent is to teach the kids logic and concepts rather than giving them a trade.

  10. dragonmouth
    December 14, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    Programming/coding is not absolutely necessary for today's primary or secondary school students. However, computer literacy is. It is assumed by educators that, because of the ubiquity of computers, young people will become computer literate on their own. There is a lot of information about computers available but, like information about sex, not all of it is correct or presented in the proper manner. Computer and sex education in schools would present these subjects in a standardized way.

  11. Cutler Cox
    December 14, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    I'm in high school right now.I can tell you two things about high schoolers and technology: They know enough about it to get themselves in trouble, and not enough to get out of it.

    I know much more than the average student at my school, and because of that, even teachers come to me for help. Other students have not had the natural curiosity for learning what makes computers tick, and so they only know how to download an app and take selfies. Programming itself is useless to these students. My school worked with a few others and a state university to try a programming elective at our school, with sophomores being required to take the class. Despite the disagreements I have with their language of choice, a dead-end language that only teaches things like a turtle (netlogo), the main problem is that these students don't care about the class and treat it like Spanish: Learn the basics, then forget everything when they don't need it anymore.

    What they need instead is a computer literacy class. Not just "Here is how you click and drag", but more like "here is how to open a compressed file. Here is how to spot potential viruses before you download them." and so on. The ones who want to learn computer science can do so in an elective, and to save them time, a test could be taken to see if they need computer literacy or not. If one odes not pass the test. they need to take the class.

    Things like troubleshooting a WiFi connection are alien to them. They don't Google their question correctly, so they don't get good results. All in all, these students need to be taught a little more than the basics, they need to know how to help themselves. If they still can't solve it, that is where IT comes in.

    Beyond this, I have no idea what to do. Students need to learn how to use a computer effectively, and then some sort of logic class. Programming should be an elective for those who want to take it, but knowing how to use netlogo isn't going to do much but teach you logic. It needs to be a useful language that isn't going to die anytime soon. Regardless of the implementation, Computer literacy for all, Computer science for those that care.

    • Mike F
      December 14, 2014 at 4:20 pm

      Cutler, I completely agree in everything you have said. I am a high school teacher for video and graphic design classes. Because we don't really have a computer literacy course I try to work some of it into my courses since they are so computer heavy. Also, some students learn some things by necessity. One of the big problems in education right now is that most states and districts don't want to offer courses that don't have some type of exam attached to it. In my courses we take Adobe certification exams, so that keeps us alive. It's sad, but unless a computer literacy course had some type of certification, it won't get picked up mainstream, at least until things change with how the federal and state governments fund and grade their schools (currently based on assessment data).

    • DudesDad
      December 14, 2014 at 7:46 pm

      As a father of a college age and high school kids I am constantly amazed at what my little "digital natives" don't know about computing or tech. But I don't think it is exclusive to them. I think it is true for most technology. Not many people my age could explain to you how a tube television works, or even which part is the "tube". Because when we grew up it was already mature. You used that clunky remote or maybe the pull knob. But your Dad didn't spend time fixing it, assembling it, or anything more than adjusting the rabbit ears, if even that. Car engines are another good example.

      In regards to the poll. I think Steve Jobs said it quiet well in his interview with Robert Cringely. (I am paraphrasing here.) 'By learning programming you teach people how to think.' If-then-else... I agree, it does teach people how to think. It also teaches a rather fundamental concept of computing which I think would help people understand the way their computing devices work and in return save them quite a bit of frustration from not having that understanding. It should not be forced though. It is a very logical way of thinking, where half of earth doesn't think in that way.

    • Udvarias Ur
      December 14, 2014 at 7:52 pm

      Cutler,

      I agree.

      The issue is to, as I said, teach young people that computers
      • are NOT scary,
      • are NOT more intelligent than they are, and
      • ARE easy to understand and work with.
      i.e. Cultivate as comfortable attitude toward computers as toward a pen.

      What I meant when I wrote 'young people' was all school aged people, K-12.

      A June 2014 article in Mother Jones Magazine called "Is Coding the New Literacy?" (See http://www.motherjones.com/media/2014/06/computer-science-programming-code-diversity-sexism-education.) relates a few interesting facts.

      1. "… the Department of Labor predicts the nation will add 1.2 million new computer-science-related jobs by 2022 …". (See http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_102.htm.)

      2. '… President Obama, who urged the nation: "Don't just play on your phone—program it." ' (See http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/12/09/don-t-just-play-your-phone-program-it.)

      3. There is "… a programming language for children developed at MIT …" called Scratch. (See http://scratch.mit.edu.)

      The gist is that coding, or more precisely programming, is already as important as reading and writing was 900 years ago. (See Annette Vee: assistant professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh at http://www.annettevee.com particularly. See especially her article Understanding Computer Programming as a Literacy at http://licsjournal.org/OJS/index.php/LiCS/article/view/24.)

    • dragonmouth
      December 15, 2014 at 3:01 pm

      @Cutler:
      "the main problem is that these students don’t care about the class and treat it like Spanish: Learn the basics, then forget everything when they don’t need it anymore."
      When you come right down to it, that is the problem with ALL subjects. Students learn only the subjects that they are interested in. How many kids come out of high school unable to do basic math, or unable to form a grammatically correct sentence?

      A lot also depends on the teacher. In my experience, most teachers teach by rote. Their students would do as well, if not better, just by reading the textbook. However, every once in a while, a teacher comes along that can make even the most boring subject interesting. I've had a few of those and I treasure every moment in their class.

  12. Udvarias Ur
    December 14, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    It should be compulsory!

    If only to teach young people that computers are NOT scary, are NOT more intelligent than they are, and ARE easy to understand and work with.

  13. likefunbutnot
    December 14, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    Coding isn't universally important. If anything teach logic. Programming is just applying a language structure to logic anyway.

    • dragonmouth
      December 14, 2014 at 4:08 pm

      "Programming is just applying a language structure to logic anyway."
      Or programming is just applying logic structure to langauge.

  14. Koshy George
    December 14, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    Obviously, Its already compulsory in India. I just hope learning regional languages wasn't compulsory. I really don't understand why CS isn't a integral part of the education system around the world. The only languages one should have to learn in school should be English and programming languages.

    • Chinmay S
      December 15, 2014 at 10:46 am

      If Coding is compulsory in your school, that doesn't means that it is compulsory in whole India. Go on a India tour and ask people "Was or Is Coding compulsory in your school"?
      99.37% will say "No".

      And by the way, learning regional languages is also not compulsory in India.

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