For young students, a C# coding workshop for kids

Free online course for students as young as 10 is designed to ignite interest in programming

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"I am not political and I'm not on any school board, but I am disappointed with how little focus there is on technology and computer technology in our schools," Skonnard said. "The fact it's not happening in junior highs and high schools is a shame given the demand for developers. There's a huge talent crunch, and people aren't connecting the dots. Parents and teachers are not talking about the need and encouraging it."

Skonnard said if the C# workshops are effective and flourish, he would like to take them nationwide. "Our goal is to create a nonprofit or another vehicle to propagate this concept," he said. "If we can inspire other communities like ours, and if we show people how easy it can be, there's power. We already have broad reach with customers in 100 countries. I'm already getting emails from professional coders abroad who say 'I'm using this with my kids.' "

Langit said she and Falco have been teaching programming courses in other countries for several years. One of her biggest hopes in teaching programming to young students is to help them become "creators of technology rather than just consumers."

With most computer courses in middle school and high school, the focus is on teaching students how to use software programs like Microsoft Word and Power Point in practical settings, rather than on training students to write programs for use in creating apps or in other ways.

"What we've found is that some kids will take the course and just be on fire and get interested in writing code," she said.

Code.org

Separate from Langit and Falco's workshops with Pluralsight in Utah this week, the nonprofit group Code.org is dedicated to expanding computer programming education nationwide. Code.org supports teaching programming to students of all ages,. On its Web site, the organization urges visitors to sign a petition that says, "Every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn to code."

Code.org also tracks the growth in computer programming jobs -- putting that growth at twice the national average -- while noting a decline in the number of college students with degrees in computer science. Also, nine of 10 schools don't offer computer programming classes, according to Code.org.

Code.com's Web site lists a series of activities and games for children to learn computer programming basics such as RoboLogic and Kodu, as well as free online university courses for adults, such as Courseera, Edx, and Udacity.

Scratch, one of the older programming languages that was created by MIT researchers for teaching programming to kids, is undergoing a transition to Scratch 2.0, which is due to be unveiled Thursday on the MIT Web site.

Also, the National Science Foundation has funded research into development of ScratchJr, a new version of the programming language designed specifically for early childhood education from kindergarten to Grade 2.

Teaching programming to children became a mission for author and teacher Douglas Rushkoff, who recently wrote a book on the topic titled Program or Be Programmed. In congressional testimony last December, Rushkoff said: "The failure to teach computer science isn't just impeding kids' understanding of the digital world, but also crippling our nation's competitiveness in business. We outsource programming not because we can't afford American programmers, but because we can't find American programmers."

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