Sunday, January 31, 2016

2016. Computer Science For All

Growing up in Buffalo, New York, I was lucky to have teachers in my local public school who found creative and exciting ways to introduce me to all of the STEM (science, tech, engineering and math) disciplines. Hands-on experiences with innovative technology built my confidence and skills for the future and helped me understand that STEM, especially computer science, could be used to make the world a better place.

And now, we have the chance to work together to expand that hands-on learning experience to all children across America, with President Obama's new Computer Science for All (#CSforAll) initiative.

The President's bold new proposal will empower students from kindergarten through high school to learn computer science, equipping them with the analytical skills they need to be creators in the digital economy, not just consumers, and to apply their passion and enthusiasm to solving problems using technology.

The United States has been home to so many amazing digital inventions -- from Silicon Valley to its counterparts like Austin, Boston, Eastern Kentucky, Louisville, Boise, Salt Lake, Atlanta, and more. Last year, there were more than 600,000 high-paying jobs across a variety of industries in the United States that were unfilled, and by 2018, 51 percent of all STEM jobs are projected to be in CS-related fields.

Our economy and our children's futures can't afford to wait.

Elementary students in Baltimore, Maryland with the author.

We’ve made real progress, but we have a lot of work left to do. In 22 states, computer science still doesn’t count toward high school graduation requirements for math or science, and 75% of schools don’t yet offer a single high-quality computer science course. Plus, stereotypes perpetuated by media portrayals, unconscious bias, the unsung history of CS heroes like Grace Hopper, and outdated classroom materials often discourage many from taking these courses -- they often 'opt-out' of CS even when it is offered.

The good news is innovators in education are already solving these challenges and leading the way all over the country. We recently recognized just a handful of these Americans at the White House Champions of Change for Computer Science Education event. These students, teachers, and community leaders are proving what’s possible, like the Spanish teacher in Queens who co-created a “Digital Dance” experience, bringing code into school dances. Or the high school and college students who tutor their younger peers in these skills, solidifying their own knowledge through mentoring.

As a kid, I was lucky to be exposed to CS -- but a lot of my generation didn’t get that chance. Let’s get all-hands-on-deck to make sure every child is learning to code as a new 'basic' skill ­-- so they can all be part of the next generation of American ingenuity, problem solving, adventure, and deep economic impact.

Find out how you can get involved today, whether you are a student, teacher, techie or an interested citizen. There's something we all can do.

Megan Smith
U.S. Chief Technology Officer

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