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Belmont High Students To Be Coding the Future

Coding is one of three new courses that could be placed in the curriculum for this coming school year.

Alexis Ohanian, the 30-year-old co-founder of the social news and entertainment website Reddit, was asked last week by interviewer Charlie Ross whether students entering college this coming fall "should learn (to write) code."

"Yes. Absolutely," said Ohanian, a University of Virginia history graduate who with his partner Steve Huffman wrote the code creating the website on laptops in a little apartment in Medford in 2005.

"If the Internet is this new frontier and … those of us who can build are building the earth in this new world … under our feet," he said. 

"So if you want to have power in this new world, it's learning how to code," said Ohanian. 

"A little bit of software goes a long way."

And if all goes to plan, Belmont High School upperclassmen will have the opportunity to help build that future world as the district's Science educators are proposing to introduce a full-year coding honors course into the curriculum beginning in September. 

"We're at a time where computer programing and coding are moving out of the realm of  a very specific subset of jobs. It's now showing up in more creative professions," Deborah Darlington, Belmont Public School's director of science, told the Belmont School Committee recently which heard proposals for a fourth-year Chinese college prep class and a new course in Theater Arts. 

The course will be open to juniors and seniors with its focus on logical thinking and creativity in computer literacy as they learn to build programs, data manipulation and programming structures. 

Darlington said that interest in coding has existed for some time at the high school as "a group of highly-motivated students" have been teaching themselves how to write in computer languages. 

Yet the new course – which will replace the under enrolled design engineering class – is not for "those Mark Zuckerberg-type students that teach themselves programing," she said referring to the founder of Facebook. 

"We are looking at students who may not have considered this before," Darlington told the committee.

"Our goal for this class is exposure. While students may have this preconceived notion that this is all about computers and 'I can't do it,' actually it's really fun and something they can use if they are interest in arts or history or any course they take," she said.

The importance of understanding and learning to code is it requires many of the new 21st century skills students will need when they enter the world; "creativity, communication and collaboration are all developed here," she said.

And while students are not stopping her in the hallway asking for a coding course, "when asked if they are interested, they will say they are," Darlington told Belmont Patch after the meeting. 

That demand will only grow as Chenery Middle School seventh graders will be introduced to basic programing "and will be familiar with more of the concepts when they come to the High School," said Darlington.

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