It's no wonder that young students shy away from computer programming, writes Neil McAllister at InfoWorld. The way schools teach it is so ... boring. "Traditional computer science classes at the high school level and earlier teach programming as if it was an end unto itself," he writes. Students write dull, pointless programs, and by the time they hit college, "they're taught to see programming as a rigorous discipline." The calculus and linear algebra that await them may be technically useful, but "to a wide-eyed middle school student who is new to programming, the road ahead must look pretty bleak. What is the point of it all?"
McAllister harkens back to what inspired his own interest as a kid, the video arcade and the games that fired his imagination. Computer classes can borrow the concept and reconnect with kids by emphasizing the creative, not the rote. He lauds a program at the University of Colorado Boulder called the Scalable Game Design curriculum that aims to apply the principle to the middle school level, but notes that budget cuts at schools around the country threaten any attempts at innovation. Which is a shame for kids. "If we don't encourage them to learn computing skills now, the next generation of graduates may find themselves left doing exactly what they're doing today: just playing video games."