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Code literacy – the 21st century game changer! Article

Why being able to at least read the code is so important?

Exactly 8 years ago the first iPhone came out and revolutionized the mobile market. Since that day, the urge to follow new technologies is growing stronger each year. We are living in a world of things that can communicate with us, and we can communicate back with them. Living in this World of machines and superior technology generates new desires for communication and human competencies.

Back in the olden days the most important was to be literate. Looking back at the XVIII century history and the Industrial Revolution, being literate was the highest quality. Once you knew how to write and read your life was automatically upgraded.  The knowledge was passed via written word – books, letters, so by being able to read and write one become part of the revolution or at least could understand the world around him better. Based on this, we can draw a parallel between being literate in the XVIII century and being technologically literate in XXI century. Being able to read and write code brings endless possibilities, just like reading and writing did in the past. Nation increasingly depends on technology and it is adopting new technologies at a breathtaking pace, but citizens are not equipped to understand the processes, make well-considered decisions or even think critically about what is happening around them and where does it go. The situation would change tremendously if people were able to at least read the code. At the moment, 1 % of all humans are able to make sense of code. Just think for a moment, what would be possible and available from the average citizen perspective if 25% of all citizens were able to do read/write code? Already we believe that the pace of technological development is astonishing but is it really? Think what would happen if one fourth of people were technologically literate? Technological thinking these days is a must, and the sooner we start it, the better it will be for our understanding of the World, our own safe and the growth.

To achieve a full change of the current paradigm we have to start from the very beginning, change within an educational system. Relatively few educators are involved in setting standards and developing curricula to promote code literacy. Coding is not treated seriously yet, as technology became so user-friendly that is merely visible, people are not too bothered how it works, they just use it as it is easy and pleasant. From the day a baby can grab and hold a smartphone until the day we die, we are connected and we live with the machines. It says something really interesting about the shift in the society and the shift in our behavioral needs. The change in education should follow.

First educational program to teach kids how to program was implemented in Estonia. Since it is a tiny eastern European country (with just over 1.3 mln citizens) it is a great place to test such a novel approach to education curriculum. Many experts from UK and US were considering to start teaching kids how to code starting from secondary school, but Estonia decided to start at the very beginning and teach first graders how to code. They have explained that teaching the youngest is easy and beneficial. At the beginning of the coding at school curriculum kids are thought how to think logically, analyze problems, decompose the big ideas into small understandable chunks and eventually how to implement new, better ideas into the reality. All above skills are necessary in the World we are living today. Step by step, the programming languages are added to the educational span. Slowly children are able to understand and write the code, which let them create and explore rather than just use what is available. They are able to think critically about the new technological solutions and analyze its benefits, potential pitfalls, and risks.

Technology is a part of our everyday routine and we assimilated with it so badly that we cannot imagine living without it. A good example on how we co-exist with technology is our “relationship” with smartphones. According to some studies, the smartphone became the most personal object that we possess and we are obsessed about it. There is even a new phobia classified – no mobile phone phobia, called nomophobia or just mobile phone anxiety. The above should stress our perceived importance of the new technologies. Using your smartphone  enable you to  communicate with your friends and family,  smart home system, check your finances, book your flight or holidays, play poker, find love or educate yourself or children. Since applications and technology, in general, are so widespread, why still only the “chosen” ones can code? We do not expect every person to become a great developer, but at least understand the code and what is says about the product. Just like now, not everyone is a writer or a poet, but everyone can read it and understand it to some extent. It would be really great of the same would apply to understanding the code.

So the findings are that we understand the growing urge for being code literate but the problem lies in undertaking the critical steps to execute it. For the past few years, there was a lot of talking, but for now only Estonia dared to make some further steps and make a first move toward becoming E-stonia. People might be more and more conscious about this particular phenomenon, but decision-makers still haven’t reacted. Possibly they see and acknowledge the problem, but the whole curriculum change will be very time and money consuming move.  Even though there is a great potential behind the idea, it can take years and years before it become the reality. Very optimistic stand on this has one of the most recognizable entrepreneurs on the planet, Mark Zuckerberg. He believes that such a shift in the society should take no longer than 15 years. Let’s hope for it!

This blog was originally written by , Operations Management at Nomtek, and posted here:

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One Comment

  • Nicely phrased – communication with things and backwards. The article is very nice starting point to open a discussion.

    Whether this is a change of paragidms, is doubtful to me. Does this mean that right now being literate in terms of being proficient in the culture (by this I mean the general way of thinking expressed in literature, humanities, art etc.) is not that important? For me this is a threat, since internet and things that are now able to communicate with humans were devised as means for information storaging. There is alwazs a question, what that information will be?
    Maybe I’m here a defender of a lost case, an age that has already becoming past.

    Second thing is the question of how will the political balance change in the years to come because of the nations’ populations’ proficiency of coding. This gives economical advantage and from this could come cultural advantage. Will the West be dominant in the nearest future or maybe if China introduced same program as there already is Estonia, could they the new top dog of the global politics and what would be the consequences?

    Anyways, this is a very intersting topic. And I look forward to some discussion, if the apps-world’s users find this interesting as well.

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