Nearly every day there is an exciting new way that technology is making an impact on our world–from self-driving cars, to robotic surgery, to using big data to understand and act on global and social challenges. Yet too few of us, from our youngest to our eldest Americans, are going beyond being a ‘user’ of technology to becoming a maker, coder, discoverer, tinkerer, designer–and harnessing the power of computing to solve new challenges and make all of our lives safer, more efficient, better informed, and more fun. We need Americans from all walks of life and organizations across the country to step up to help empower and educate the next generation to harness the power of computer science.
As President Obama said in a recent essay with Wired magazine, “We need not only the folks at MIT or Stanford or the NIH, but also the mom in West Virginia tinkering with a 3-D printer, the girl on the South Side of Chicago learning to code, the dreamer in San Antonio seeking investors for his new app, the dad in North Dakota learning new skills so he can help lead the green revolution.”
We need more Americans to acquire the skills to build solutions for the community, like Kid Science Advisor Anahi Gandara-Rodriguez, 15, of Denver, who is developing a prototype of a smart cane for the blind that detects the distance between the cane and other objects and sends a vibration to a certain part of the hand depending on how far away the objects are from the user.
In the modern economy, computer science (CS) is a critical skill, no matter what you want to do or what problem you want to solve.
That’s why just eight months ago, in his final State of the Union Address and subsequent weekly address, President Obama declared computer science a basic skill just like reading and writing, and set a bold goal – every American student should have the opportunity to learn computer science. Since January, momentum for CS education has grown at all levels of government and in the private sector:
And this week, a new report from Google and Gallup showed that CS classes are now available in 40 percent of U.S. schools, up from an estimated 25 percent the year prior.
In less than two months, there will be another opportunity to celebrate, to mark progress, and to grow the coalition working to expand computer science. This Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek), taking place from December 5-11, schools, community organizations, families, companies, and government agencies–including the White House and Federal agencies like NASA, the National Science Foundation, the US Patent and Trademark Office, and the Department of Energy–will host events and activities to give students direct access to CS. This will include everything from Family Code Nights that engage parents and students in learning computer science together, to Hour of Code events at schools, in homes, and online worldwide, to events here at the White House highlighting making and computer science, bringing broadband internet access to all Americans, and using open data to drive innovation.
With your help, this upcoming CSEdWeek has the potential to be the largest and most successful to date and we look forward to hearing about your plans. One of the ways your organization can get involved is to commit to expand computer science in your community or nationally, with measurable, specific goals that uniquely utilize what you can do to spread opportunity.
If you have an action you want to undertake to support CS education, submit it here by November 14, 2016. We want to hear about remarkable strides being made in your community and how we can build on them!
Ruthe Farmer is Senior Policy Advisor for Tech Inclusion at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy