French, Spanish, German ... Java? Making Coding Count As A Foreign Language

03/21/2016

Interested in reading the full article? Check it out over on NPR.org by All Things Considered.

Florida is poised to become the first state to allow computer coding to fulfill a foreign-language requirement in high school. In a competitive job market, the thinking goes, computer skills are as important as speaking another language.

At SAIL High School in Tallahassee, a 3-D printer whirs away. It's turning PVC pipe into a red, Lego-like piece for a robot.

This is the OctoPiRates robotics club. These students will soon compete in a national contest with their hand-built robot. It features a square, metal frame with eight rubber wheels and a scooping arm.

Many of the OctoPiRates members, like Ram Moore, are self-taught.

"I mostly learned on my own, and I took AP Computer Science," Moore explains. "And from there, I taught myself some other skills."

Another student, Alexander Olson, says he's forgotten a lot of the Spanish he took for two years in middle school, and wishes he had learned coding instead: "This would have stuck with me a lot longer."

Most technology runs on computer code. But it's not widely taught in Florida's public schools. Lawmakers are hoping to change that.

State Sen. Jeremy Ring, a Democrat, says he wants students to add coding languages like Python, Java or C++ into the mix of traditional languages like French and Spanish.

"Whether you're going into politics, sales, it doesn't really matter," Ring says. "You need to have a technology understanding in order to compete in life, and in a professional environment."

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