In a recent coding event in Saskatoon, Brad Carter, development executive from Apple Education, suggested that computational thinking needs to be considered the fourth ‘R’ after reading, writing and arithmetic. The reason, he argues, is that the digital landscape has grown so intensely students will need a proper skill set to navigate it effectively. With mobile devices increasingly controlling most of our interactions, we’re putting much of our faith into coders who fall into a fairly specific demographic - namely the traditional white male programmer who has more in common with the Google founders than end users. Brad suggests that diversifying the coding world with more females and minorities will undoubtably improve the technological landscape. This is why we need to start programming at a young age and promote it directly to the underrepresented.
It’s highly unlikely that we’re on the verge of a global technological collapse at the hands of white male programmers. Only a minimum of economic knowledge is required to understand that the marketplace of apps is rich in choice and covers a vast variety of markets. Most demographics are served well and it’s difficult to sense any grand injustice or exploitation at an underrepresented population. Generally speaking, the market is thriving.
Instead of promoting coding to girls with the purpose of increasing the number hard code developers, why not use it as motivation to empower everyone to become literate in a world drowning in technology? Pushing buttons, opening a website and sending Snaps does not make someone technologically literate. A well educated individual who is competent in that fourth ‘R’ understands the motivation for a company to design, code and sell an app. This will undoubtably influence their purchase and/or use of any application. For example, if a competent coder was able to recognize that an app like Facebook was making money off of posted pictures by running a sneaky algorithm on every upload, then the user might make a better decision on what type of photos to share. One might simply declare this as critical thinking, but it’s deeper than that. Only an experienced programmer would be able to recognize the framework where background programs could exploit. Critical thinking can raise the initial questions and concerns. However, only a critical thinking individual exposed to coding could understand the red flags.
Competent, tech savvy, experienced coders in mass numbers across many demographics would most certainly influence the technological landscape in the long run. A diverse set of ideas may not drastically improve the programming marketplace, however, it will push the innovation of technology to new heights by offering different ideas and perspectives. We’ve only started to scratch the surface of technological potential (and will continue to do so regardless of who codes). With effective virtual reality, nanotechnology and AI around the corner, we’re going to need those diverse opinions.
Lets get coding!