The New Literacy: Computer Coding

(CBS) — Almost everything we use requires computer coding.

Our cell phones, laptops, cars, planes, security systems and more operate, in part, because of these written codes. Experts say the industry is exploding and more schools need to teach it.

CBS 2’s Kate Sullivan introduces us to a coding curriculum creator and some coding kids.

Students learning computer coding at Middlefork Elementary in Northfield are among the minority. They attend coding club and find fun in the lessons.

One of only about 10 percent of U.S. schools provide any coding education, which is a problem to Grechen Huebner, a co-creator of Kodable, a coding curriculum used at various schools in 100 countries.

Kodable uses arrows and symbols to program the movements of fuzzy aliens. Code it wrong and you have to try again. It is similar to how they program Bee-Bots to travel a maze sometimes correctly and sometimes not.

Which is part of the life lesson, says Principal Mary Frances Greene.

“It just becomes something that didn’t work right as opposed to ‘I failed,’” Greene says.

Students agree this teaches them to solve problems.

“You need to analyze, ‘How did I get it wrong?’” says Erin, a third-grade student.

It can also prepare students for their future.

“We use technology every minute of every day almost,” Huebner says. “So, it’s important to understand how that technology is created, not just how to use it.”

Jen Gilbert, Middelfork’s technology assistant, agrees.

“Coding is like the new literacy,” Gilbert says. “Because it’s their current world, their digital world.”

That includes 3D modeling and printing.

These types of lessons are mandated curriculum in other countries, such as the U.K., China, Estonia and others, Huebner says.

She hopes her program, designed to also attract more girls, will get both genders coding. It is working at Middlefork.

“Girls can do it, and as good as boys sometimes. Sometimes better,” Erin says.

Middlefork’s program began with a parent’s suggestion and PTO funding.

To find lessons you can do at home, along with coding camps and clubs, go to www.code.org/learn.

Code.org says in five years, there will be 1 million more computing jobs than students graduating with computer science degrees.

Editor’s note: One student in this story is related to a CBS employee.

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