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Published on January 21st, 2016 | by Carlos Esquivel

Who’s your programmer?

I remember playing Oregon Trail on a little Macintosh SE at my elementary school in our technology class. Now we have computers as small as watches that blow away the max computing power of the puny 4MB of ram the mac used. For those of us that didn’t grow up with the web, we can see the drastic impact of instantly available information on our society and in classrooms where kids are used to high stimulation from exposure to on demand content from any subject imaginable. I graduated in 1998 just when the web was preparing to replace the dewy decimal system card catalog and I can say I never used the Internet until after high school as I can remember.

The biggest influence technology had on me in school was the discovery of Photoshop on one of my art teachers computers that she would allow me to use. I was always interested in art, but the digital form of it introduced me to what would be the basis for my career as designer and now a teacher of digital design and printing. Since that time, the digital world has been making our daily activities easier and faster, but it still surprises me, when I see that education is the slowest to catch up to the current trends in tech.

I created a app to improve classroom efficiency called Habitude and it attempted to make data collection and accumulation of scores very easy. It was my introduction to how useful technology could be to education, which persists to use paper and pencil to collect information for records. Now, to be fair, attendance, grading and other records have gone digital, as in the tool we use in our school called Infinite Campus. This software is great and has many useful features, but I found that the ignorance of what technology can do is still prevalent in our schools among staff.

I believe that every teacher and for that matter, anyone who uses data, information or things as basic as a list should have a programmer in their contact list. Especially in education where data is such a important way to analyze performance, trends and simply just a better way organize what we know. As I worked through building this app with a programmer it became very clear that the power of these programming languages to manipulate and display data was a bottomless well of opportunity to improve how we work and live. Anything that repeats itself could be data. These patterns are lost opportunities to improve the communication or procedure if they aren’t collected and analyzed.

I don’t think we are there yet in schools where this kind of thinking is taking place. The world between software development and education, in this case, stops short of tools that tech companies build to manage the obvious needs of grades, attendance and other basic performance metrics. These developments have made administration more efficient, but it can’t stop with attendance tracking and the initiative should be coming from educators, not top down, who should understand the great power these magicians wield with tools like HTML5, JavaScript, PHP, JSON and C++ to shape all the data around us into a intelligible syntax of useful analytics that can improve learning and classroom management on a greater scale.

Hooray to all the groups (@girlswhocode, code.org) raising awareness of how important the skill of programming is to our way of life. If we use and frankly, cherish this technology, we should also embrace the process and take some ownership of it’s real potential in our data saturated lives. So think about how a programmer could manage your data better and make a call to find one of your very own.

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About the Author

Maker of all types including digital art, 2-d art, electronics, music performance with excessive enthusiasm for most things cool. Cross pollinator, ENFJ, High I in DISC Profile, believer in hustling harder and looking for opportunities in the unlikely places. Father of two and husband with Immigrant parents and a passion for believing in what can't be seen.



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