(Note: please don’t let this definition stop you from reading on).

According to Wikipedia, Computer Science is defined as, “The scientific and practical approach to computation and its applications. It is the systematic study of the feasibility, structure, expression, and mechanization of the methodical procedures (or algorithms) that underlie the acquisition, representation, processing, storage, communication of, and access to information, whether such information is encoded as bits in a computer memory or transcribed in genes and protein structures in a biological cell. A computer scientist specializes in the theory of computation and the design of computational systems.”

If you read and understood that entire definition, CONGRATS! For the majority of us that had to read a at least a couple times to make sense of it all, lets get excited that Computer Science, once a mystery to most, is now becoming more accessible and digestible than ever, especially when it comes to coding.

There is no question about it, coding is hot right now — and it isn’t just because the Hour of Code is upon us. Thanks to organizations such as code.org, Girls Who Code, General Assembly and Microsoft Virtual Academy (and loads of others), coding has become a lot less overwhelming and a lot more accessible and empowering. This brings a new perspective to a subject that once was viewed necessary for only a select few. Computer Science is finally transitioning from being seen as a specific job training course to being recognized as a key element to a students’ 21st century education. It is pretty difficult to argue its value. However, there is still significant work to be done to increase access to Computer Science Education as we look to better prepare students for the jobs of today…and tomorrow.

As educators, it is our job to equip students with the skills needed for success in college, career and life. The kicker is, that in today’s world, we don’t necessarily know what jobs we will be preparing them for. Technology changes quickly and constantly presents new opportunities. Many of our students will find themselves settling into jobs that don’t even exist today and others will decide to follow their own path, creating their own companies and careers. Regardless of the unknown future, we must develop students who:

  • Think critically
  • Solve problems with perseverance and creativity
  • Anticipate challenges and look for a variety of solutions
  • Are not frightened to make mistakes but rather use the results of each attempt to create a stronger plan of attack.

Students that are respectful, collaborative and understand how routine and procedure can be necessary in an effective and efficient work environment. Computer Science is the perfect entry point for such skill development and a critical part of success in an ever changing job market.

This week millions of students around the world have invested an hour of their time to learn the basics of Computer Science through the Hour of Code, an initiative of Code.org that has increased the visibility, popularity, and access to coding content for anyone with the internet. The annual event receives increasing engagement and a ton of positive feedback, but we also must encourage our schools to be ready to take it to the next level. What will you do after the Hour of Code?

In support of the event, Microsoft launched Learn to Code through their Microsoft Virtual Academy. Designed as a focused starting point and learning path to fuel student interest in the creative world of coding, the goal is to provide a range of opportunities for learners. Students can start using the course titled “Hour of Code with TouchDevelop” and continue their coding learning journey through Python and HTML5. With over 15 additional hours of online content already available, Microsoft coders sharing their stories with students, and links for young learners to download free software through DreamSpark, students can immerse themselves in coding skills and learning resources helping them to build games and apps.

Engagement from major technology companies, such as Microsoft, highlights the industry’s recognition of the global economic importance of the Computer Science movement and its potential as a tool for creating well prepared future employees.

Early this year, I was able to chat with Grant Hosford, CEO & Founder of CodeSpark, a game based coding program designed specifically to engage a younger audience (ages 5 – 8). I asked “why coding?” and we discussed the unique benefits to coding as a jumping off point for greater interest in the broader world of Computer Science. We talked about how with coding, we are creating schemas for more advanced mathematics topics. We are laying the foundation for a strong sense of sequencing and problem solving. And Grant noted, “we are preparing our students for a future of careers that will undoubtedly require strong computer skills.”

As we look to the future for our students, we may not be able to tell with 100 percent certainty what jobs they will take, but that shouldn’t stop us from providing unique opportunities that they will take into their interviews and add to their resumes. Coding and Computer Science can support the next generation of learners — learners who will tackle even the most challenging of problems with anticipation and drive. The next generation of learning must address a new type of skill development, and a great place to start is with coding. In the Fall of 2016, students will even be able to take an advanced placement course on Computer Science. Will your students be ready?

Let us know what are you doing in your classrooms and schools to extend the Hour of Code by tweeting #SmartMath or adding a comment below!

This blog is brought to you by Microsoft as part of a series on coding for college and career readiness. For more, stay tuned in January for the final published project, Getting Smart on Coding for College and Career Readiness and check out additional posts in the series:

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