By Shreya Shankar, College Station, TX
About thirty computer screens brightly flashed onto the faces of young students as I entered my local middle school's computer lab. My first reaction was, "Wow, these kids have fancy computers. I don't remember having such fancy computers six years ago."
But then I looked at what the kids were doing, and I was genuinely surprised. Each student was intently focused on his or her screen, learning Ruby. Well, with the exception of one kid, who was coding a website in HTML.
After sitting with a couple of girls - yes, girls! - who were trying to create an animation using Ruby, I realized that these students thought coding was fun. It wasn't a task to these kids. They created simple animations for fun, just like I put puzzles together for fun when I was a middle schooler. And they treated coding just like solving a puzzle - "hey, I should probably change the angle of rotation so the animal can travel this way" or "I should probably make a loop to repeat this function three times." It made me pretty happy to see the young students in my community critically think and solve problems.
The fact that there are some middle schoolers today that enjoy critical thinking restores my faith that maybe - just maybe - our generation isn't as doomed as what some people think. As I tutor some of my fellow high school students in physics and calculus, I come to realize that many students just don't feel like applying themselves to the task at hand. "Why can't I just Google the answer and move on?" is a frequently asked question during every tutoring session. I'm just afraid that the number of students who don't feel like applying themselves will grow every year. However, thankfully, most of the high schoolers I know dissect a problem when they cannot obtain the correct answer.
Now that I have seen 5th and 6th graders fall in love with critical problem solving and algorithm design, I feel better about us students in general. Working with the enthusiastic middle schoolers makes me extremely glad that I fell into computer science. The more kids who apply themselves, the merrier, right?