It seems every time you open your laptop or use your smartphone or tablet, there’s something new about it. For that, you can thank computer science.
Those who thought the technology revolution would soon relent still have time to change their thinking. Consider this: in just six short years, there will be more than 1.4 million jobs in computer science available.
Attention naysayers, that’s a $500 billion opportunity, according to Code.org.
However, just 400,000 college students are expected to graduate with a computer science degree, equating to just about 2.4 percent of graduates.
So when it comes to generating a workforce prepared to take on the hundreds of thousands of computer science jobs expected to open up by 2020, San Antonio’s local school districts are up to the challenge.
Jennifer Grimes, the library and media specialist at Hillcrest Elementary School at San Antonio Independent School District, says on the whole, the nation isn’t producing a workforce that’s going to be ready for it.
Grimes, along with fifth-grade bilingual teacher Giselle Calejo, started the school’s very first Coding Club. The two came up with the project for Region 20’s Cohort of Leadership Associates program, which provides training for administration roles.
“We wanted to do a project that was student-centered,” said Calejo. “Because kids loved being on the computer, loved the Internet, the first thing they said they wanted to learn was how to design games.”
Games, of course, were the hook for kids, according to Grimes.
“They’re very interested in gaming, obviously, and this was something where they had the opportunity to understand kind of what’s going on behind the scenes and understand there’s a process to it, it doesn’t just magically happen,” said Grimes.
Fifth-grader Sandra Mata agrees.
“You know, people don’t think about how the games are made on your apps,” said Mata. “[Coding] is something we can play with and see how things work and how the world’s changing with technology.”
Wise words from an 11-year-old who said she’d like to be a Supreme Court Justice someday. When asked how coding was going to help her get there, she responded with a laugh, saying, “Soon, everybody’s going to be using it, and liking it!”
Her classmate, Diego Santiago, on the other hand, has equally high goals. He’d like to be a video game creator or cartoon designer.
On the day KSAT stopped by after-school Coding Club, Santiago was building a maze, all created with a free program called Scratch, created by the MIT Media Lab.
“It’s pretty fun, it’s not boring,” said Santiago. “It takes time and I wouldn’t say it was hard, but it depends on how your imagination is.”
The premise is simple: the students have to create a maze, and then help their character get through the maze. If the course is coded incorrectly, it doesn’t work correctly.
But when it comes time to correct their work, these kids aren’t raising their hands for the teacher. They’ve learned how to “debug,” or correct the problem, on their own.
“At first I thought I was pretty good at this,” said Consejo. “But [the students] just blow me out of the water. I don’t even try to problem-solve anymore. They do it all themselves. That was the goal, to teach them, and let them learn those skills on their own.”
Scratch, like many of the programs available for new coders, is quirky and completely user-friendly.
“There’s no mistakes, there’s no errors,” said Grimes. “It’s just their opportunity to play around and express themselves and see what they can come up with.”
Matas proudly shows off an animation she programmed, featuring a cartoon rock band.
“I love afros, and I love pink,” said Matas. “I’m really proud of this one.”
Hillcrest Elementary isn't the only school getting on the code bandwagon.
Hoffman Lane Elementary in the Comal Independent School District participated in "Hour of Code" in December.