In the digital age, learning to program has become an increasingly valuable skill to master. Recognizing the importance of programming is helping to build a more innovative and efficient global community. As initiatives and movements to equip K-12 students with the technological skills to succeed continue to grow, we reached out to leading industry experts to hear how they believe learning to program can help to solve problems and impact the world.
These experts were asked the following questions:
- What is the value of learning to program?
- How does learning to program equip future generations with opportunity to succeed and impact the world?
We hope these valuable insights will help to inspire people, from all ages and backgrounds, to pursue computer programming and discover how it can make a difference in their life and the world around them.
Learning computer science isn’t just for people who want to pursue a career in software engineering. Of course, given computing jobs are the #1 source of all new wages in the U.S., it’s an obvious choice for anybody interested in a career in tech. But the real reason to learn computer science is to have a basic, foundational understanding of how all the technology in our world works – for the same reason we all learn basic biology, chemistry, or physics.
The purpose of every job in the world is to produce value; the value of making tools is that they multiply the value that we can produce. One person with a crowbar can lift far more than a team of people without. Software is in many ways the ultimate tool: it multiplies the value of mental, not physical, labor. It can be shared instantly, modified easily, and improved upon indefinitely. I know of no better way to make an impact on the future than the production of software tools.
Computers are now part of our lives and every field besides computing needs computers. Learning programming is not only a necessity, but it is a path to freedom. The basic functions on our cell phones, tablets and computers can be better configured with some understanding of programming. The ability to program will help you do your work better and faster no matter the career you want to pursue.
Programming is one of the most straightforward ways to learn how to problem solve. Traditionally, math has played that role, but with ubiquitous computing devices and open source software, programming has begun to take its place. Additionally, programming is becoming more of a social activity compared to the 1990’s due to the Internet and the open-source movement. This allows for the capability to solve problems with a group of contributors, lead other programmers and follow the leadership of others to achieve goals. Learning to compromise and adjust agendas based on the needs of a community are important lessons in order for future generations to prosper.
The value of learning to program is the ability to take an idea and make it a reality completely from scratch, which has the potential to make an impact on a global and/or local level. Learning to code helps people of all ages to improve their ability to problem solve and think logically, in addition to gaining skills like teamwork and communication. With this skill, people are empowered with the tools needed to improve the world that they live in.
The act of programming in itself is nothing special, but learning to program helps develop peripheral skills that can be applied in many areas of life: extreme rigor, abstract thinking, adaptability, problem solving, or even creativity. These are skills that, once acquired, can empower individuals to have a lasting impact on the world in any area. And the breadth of industries where programming is essential is unlike any other – from trying to predict the future by programming mathematical models, to tapping into the limitless possibilities offered by the worldwide web and building web applications, there is something out there for every sensitivity.
Learning programming may be our new fundamental skill. It requires learning to think about problems in a structured way, and enables you to leverage technology to create solutions to problems small and large. As computing becomes a component of more and more things in our lives, the ability to use and control computing becomes that much more critical. The ability to program becomes our society’s great enabler.
The world continues to depend more and more on software, everything we touch either has software on it, or was built and shipped with systems operated by software, making it a insanely in-demand field. Programming isn’t just about career growth though, it truly expands your critical thinking and problem solving skills. You will start to see the world from a new light and find yourself curious about how everything around you operates.
Today, learning how to program is like learning Latin back in the day: it provides a critical skill foundation for excelling in almost every other more nuanced, in-demand field; many fields not traditionally associated with STEM, like history or archeology, now utilize programming for everything from 3D printing to virtual and augmented reality. What makes learning to program especially enviable is that unlike other skills that tend to ebb-and-flow in desirability within the job market, fields that are incredibly dependent on programming (i.e. cybersecurity, IT management and data science) are projected to grow in the decades-long foreseeable future, providing unprecedented job opportunities for graduates with plenty of options for fulfilling, meaningful career pathways.
As a reporter for a software magazine, I come across plenty of programmers and engineers each day. I’ve found those that can program and those who understand software, coding and engineering are the individuals who will be able to keep up in the digital transformation we are currently facing. Picking up programming skills will better prepare you for this technological future, and it will open up plenty of doors for rewarding job opportunities, too.
How many of the problems that we confront can be productively tackled by computational thinking? Practically any one. Just look at all the ways that we employ computers and programs — the scope is unlimited. Being able to write a program is an acid test of this creative and powerful way of approaching the world. It teaches us to design a formal model, to pose a problem clearly, to express and to test a solution in a rigorous way. It extends our ability to solve problems as much as an opposable thumb extends our grasp.
Learning to program changes a learner’s perspective on the world. They gain control over the products, tools and services in their sphere. With knowledge of how programmable things work and the tools to change them, the inspired and knowledgeable can build things that don’t exist or fix things built poorly. Continuous invention and innovation of software in the cloud, on your computer and in the programmable real world allows us to make value from nothing and delight instead of frustrate.