MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Students across the world spent time learning how to program computers Monday as part of Computer Science Education Week.

Some of those students are as young as 5 years old.

As part of an effort called “The Hour of Code,” elementary school students in Minnesota are now regularly getting instruction on computer programming.

Teachers say the benefits later in life are huge.

Middleton Elementary School in Woodbury is one of several schools in Minnesota where coding is being integrated into classroom instruction time.

Kindergartners are even getting into it using iPads.

Bob Berkowitz is the director of technology for South Washington County Schools.

“We are really talking about logic,” he said. “We’re talking about the basic constructs of programming: logical thinking; and, if, or.”

Berkowitz said leaders in the IT industry created the Code.org website to accelerate interest in coding at an earlier age.

The website’s financiers also pay to train teachers and for the curriculum materials they need.

“The folks at Code.org looked at the trends and the folks coming out our of the higher education [system] and they realized that in ten years, there [will be] a shortage of one million programmers,” Berkowitz said.

WCCO asked some of the third-graders what they think about learning how to code.

“It’s amazing,” said Kate Prow. “When you have it harder in higher grade levels, then you would already know how to do it, and then it would be easier.”

Chris Faricy is also a third-grader.

“You are using your strategy to figure it out,” Faricy said, “and I am actually learning how to code, and so I can do it at home.”

Students can practice coding at home using the login information for the accounts they create at school.

Schools are finding kids are going home and teaching their siblings how to code.

What students are really learning is critical thinking and logic, so these are skills they can apply in all their classes: science, math, even reading and writing.

Also, by high school, they won’t be intimidated by some of the more advanced computer science classes and will be more likely to take them, more likely to go study in a computer-related field in college and more likely to move on to fill those job openings of the future.

Right now, women and people of color are under-represented in those fields.

Coding websites
Code.0rg
MIT Scratch
Tynker

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