SXSWedu 2016 K-12 coding panel

From left: SXSWedu Conference & Festival panelists Gordon Smith, Diane Levitt, Michael Preston, Emily Reid and Kevin Wang discuss why coding should be more prevalent in schools in grades K-12 at a March 7 panel. Joseph Basco

All children should learn to code in school, according to educators on a SXSWedu Conference & Festival panel March 7 at the Hilton Austin hotel.

The panelists, all coming from the computer science education world, stressed that there is a lack of coding classes available for students in grades K-12.

Panelist Gordon Smith, CEO of Codesters, Inc., said by 2020, there will be 1 million tech jobs left unfilled.

“It is problematic to be living in a world of technology designed by a group unrepresented by the rest of the country,” said Emily Reid, director of Education for Girls Who Code, a nonprofit organization that aims to close the gender gap in the tech industry.

Reid added that it is not just sufficient to have computer science classes in school, but the teaching itself has to be inclusive for all genders, backgrounds and learning styles.

Locally, Austin ISD partnered with Google to bring the tech company’s Made With Code program to Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders. The goal of the initiative is to promote computer science education to female students so that they may consider a future career in tech.

Kevin Wang, founder of the Microsoft TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools) program, listed three reasons why computer science has to be implemented in K-12 schools: a democracy is functional with an educated electorate, computational thinkers can do their jobs better, and more computer scientists are in demand and needed for the economy.

To Wang, the top problem for computer science in schools is the lack of teacher training for computer science curriculum.

Diane Levitt, senior director of K-12 Education for Cornell Tech, said coding is an economic tool.

“Coding is an opportunity to give students the tool to get their family out of poverty,” Levitt said.

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SXSWedu panel calls for teaching code to all students

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