I know this is backwards, but I’m going to start at the end. The last day of school. I guess I was trying to inspire my students, but at the same time I ended up sort of outlining the thesis that supports my class. This is what I told my students (approximately… I said it six times, so I’m thinking I’m pretty close):
“Here we are on the last day of school. But I want you to take a minute and think about the first days. Remember? We talked about what a computer is. We talked about what a computer program is. We wrote our very first program. Remember it? ‘Hello World.’ A 2 line program that made our character say those words.
“And look at us now! We’ve programmed games and drawing programs. We graduated from block based coding and coded in text. We learned about variables and conditionals and functions. We built and programmed robots to solve real world problems. We coded mobile apps and games. And each of our projects got more and more difficult and complicated. Pretty amazing when you think about everything we’ve accomplished this semester!
“I want to remind you of something that I told you at the beginning of the semester because it’s really important. Current predictions show that by the year 2020 there will be 1,400,000 jobs available in computer programming… but only about 400,000 students graduating with the skills to take on those jobs.
“That is a one-million job gap. That represents companies that will fold and great ideas that will never happen simply because of a lack of qualified talent. And if we don’t start turning that around, our economy is in trouble. Why do you think we’re seeing so many new ways to engage students in coding? This isn’t a fad. It’s our future and a lot of people in a lot of big companies are getting worried.
“And I truly believe that some of you in this class right now will start down a path, will continue your education in computer science, and will eventually use those skills to help those companies make the world a better place.
“And some of you, I really believe this, will change the world. You will build the next Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or method of communication and because of your work and innovation, the world will never be the same.
“And I know that some of you have seen enough. After this class, you know that computer programming isn’t for you. I get it. That’s ok. No problem. Even if you never write another program in your life, you got something out of this class.
“First of all, I hope you have a better understanding of and appreciation for the technology that is such a part of our lives. I hope you see the time and effort that goes into all of our beloved tech.
“But even more than that, do you know what colleges tell us when we ask them how we can be better preparing our students? Let me tell you what they’re NOT saying. They’re NOT saying that students don’t know how to take tests. They’re NOT saying that students don’t know enough facts.
“What they ARE telling us is that students don’t know how to effectively work in groups. They don’t know how to problem solve. They don’t know how to fail, learn from that failure, make changes, try again… and fail. And keep failing and failing and failing… until they succeed.
“There is a name for that – it’s called grit. And if we haven’t been working on developing that… and problem solving… and working effectively in a group… then I don’t even know what we’ve been doing in here this year.
“And it doesn’t matter if you end up in IT or politics or education or law or medicine. Those skills will serve you no matter where you end up.
“I really hope that you’ve enjoyed taking this course as much as I’ve enjoyed putting it together and teaching it. Have a great summer and keep in touch. I want to know the amazing things that you are doing.”
Long winded. Probably. But maybe some of them heard me. Maybe some of them will change the world….