New languages are entering K-12 classrooms that have never been spoken aloud. In today’s world, these silent languages are surpassing verbal languages, like Spanish and English, as key tools to communicate on a global scale: They are computer coding languages, such as Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML), Extensible Markup Language (XML) and other software codes, such as C++ and Java. Coding advocates say that learning these languages, as part of a comprehensive computer science education, is fundamental to better preparing students for the future.
Statistics from Code.org, a non-profit advocacy group supported by the likes of Google and Microsoft, show that there are 1.4 million computing jobs but only 400,000 computer science students.
According to Code.org, “Computer science drives innovation in the U.S. economy and society. Despite growing demand for jobs in the field, it remains marginalized throughout the U.S. K-12 education system.”
President Barack Obama is on the coding bandwagon too. Obama says that learning these skills isn’t just important for the students’ future – it’s important for the country’s future to stay on the cutting edge. In December 2014, the Administration announced new commitments that will help give millions of additional K-12 students access to computer science education, including:
Sitting among a room full of students, Obama does the Hour of Code. He said, “All across the country people are doing code. We’re starting too late, when it comes to making sure that our young people are familiar not just with how to play a video game, but how to create a video game.”
Current Computer Coding in Schools
Currently, only 26 states allow students to count computer science courses toward high school graduation, despite computer science leading to some of the best paying jobs. In recognition of this, school districts, as well as states, are pushing for more computer programming classes in schools.
In Arkansas, more than 1,300 high school students signed up for summer classes on computer coding and 87 schools have requested funding for classes from Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s K-12 Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) education initiative, THV 11 reported in August 2015. In addition, more than 130 teachers from all over the state have received training over the summer to teach computer science.
In Massachusetts, legislature provided $1.5 million in matching funds for the Massachusetts Computing Attainment Network, or MassCAN, to train teachers in computer science and to lobby more school districts to introduce lessons, The Boston Globe reported in August 2015.
Onvia’s Spending Forecast Center confirms these trends: School districts have adopted or proposed 595 budget and technology plans for the coming five years related to computer science, coding and STEM programs.
The Desire to Learn Coding is Driving Contract Opportunities
Typical computer users may view coding languages such as HTML and XML as nothing more than a string of random letters and unfamiliar symbols, but it’s the intricate lists of letters and symbols that create engaging, vibrant websites and user-friendly computer programs that anyone can use. This intrigue of creation through technology has grabbed students’ attention.
One way to accommodate more computer science in K-12 education is to transform older industrial arts classrooms, or “shop classes,” into 21st century technology centers.
As school districts institute these new classes, they are also issuing contracts to help them formulate the curricula to make classes meet state education standards.
Teaching Coding is Good News for Multiple Industries
States, such as Arkansas and Massachusetts, have grant programs available that will go toward computer programming and coding education. Private and non-profit organizations are on board to partner with schools to help introduce and expand computer science programs. For example, CodeEd, a non-profit that teaches computer science to girls in underserved communities, provides classes on introduction to HTML and programming, learning to build websites and basic site navigation. Code.org also aims to improve diversity and the number of female students in the field:
— Code.org (@codeorg) July 14, 2015
K-12 education is just at the beginning of this technology trend, based on the number of schools adopting capital improvement and technology plans. Most contract awards are a year-long or less and valued less than $25,000, however, the number of contracts will grow as more states and school districts opt to bring computer science to students. Companies in the business and consulting industry—particularly those supplying educational products and services—will have an increasing number of contract opportunities. IT software companies too can adapt their services and target schools with simple software solutions to educate students and teachers. IT hardware providers have business prospects as schools continue to invest in more computer hardware to make the coding and devices for hands-on learning lessons. Companies can benefit by partnering with other firms that are well versed in either education or software engineering to make an entry into the new world coding in the classroom.