Talking in code
Computer coding deserves to be taught as a foreign language just like Spanish or French
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Students can take their pick. They can sit in groups, forming sentences with new vocabulary words in Spanish or French, or they can sit at a computer, learning HTML, CSS and Java.
Starting next year, those two completely different classes might be the same, at least in the eyes of the Florida Legislature. And that’s not a bad thing at all.
State Sen. Jeremy Ring recently proposed a bill requiring high schools to offer computer courses and make those courses count for foreign language credit in both Florida’s high schools and its public universities.
Doing so would open up a multitude of opportunities for students, especially for those who have no interest in taking a foreign language but wish to receive the Bright Futures Scholarship, by preparing them for careers in our increasingly technology-oriented society.
The purpose of school is to prepare students for the future. Whether that means preparing them for future careers or making them well-rounded citizens, the presence of technology is only growing. Computers are everywhere. They are in our pockets, our classrooms, our cars. The technology field requires skilled programmers and engineers to get them ready for the eager market.
Computer coding is useful for students who have no intention of becoming programmers as well. Nowadays, most jobs, whether a student chooses to become a technician or a teacher, require at least basic knowledge of computers.
Inside the classroom, computer coding courses offer a modern, tactile lesson for students who have no interest in more traditional foreign languages. While knowledge of a foreign language can be enriching and advantageous, it won’t be beneficial for students uninterested in learning it. For most students, two to four years of foreign language will amount to nothing more than a handful of mispronounced phrases.
A different perspective
Learning how to code offers many advantages outside the job as well. Coding teaches logic, reasoning and positive approaches towards problem-solving. It teaches students how to tackle complex problems with series of simple steps, instead of being overwhelmed.
Just as foreign language gives students a greater appreciation for cultures, programming gives them a greater appreciation for the media and technology that surrounds us.
It is fair to argue that it may be difficult for schools with fewer resources to get the computers and trained teachers necessary to offer computer coding courses. However, with the movement toward entirely computer-based testing, that is a challenge that most schools have to deal with sooner or later.
Ring’s proposal does not mean the end of foreign language education. It means students will have more opportunities to pursue their interests and prepare for the future, whether that involves a tech job right here in the U.S. or an entirely different job in another country.