To start a career in IT/Data, one needs to have begun many years before with computer science and computational thinking classes in elementary school. We can no longer get by with students waiting until college to learn the necessary skills, or for self-taught “hackers” to enter the IT/Data workforce. All of our kids need some hands-on experience with computer technology and, most importantly, need to learn to think and solve problems using computational reasoning.
New mode of thinking
While this kind of learning, even in the elementary grades, requires the use of some coding, learning to code in and of itself should not be the goal. The coding language third graders might use in a later IT/Data career hasn’t even been invented yet. Learning to break a problem down into its component parts, assembling solutions to each part and learning to work in teams to attack problems — these are the long-term learning skills that students need to learn.
Students need to become comfortable with data. Learning how to manipulate data, evaluate its accuracy and organize and display data in useful and usable ways are all skills that can be developed in many elementary, middle and high school classes as part of a student’s ongoing education. With this kind of data “comfort,” a student is well on his or her way to an IT career.
With an integrated approach that introduces technological complexity at appropriate points in a student’s education, we can create a generation of computational thinkers who are ready to be the IT/Data professionals of our future. And the beautiful thing about such an approach is that, even if a student goes into a completely different kind of work, these skills will still be valuable no matter the field of endeavor.