CBSN

In a Boston school, computer code in every class

Computer coding, once the exclusive purview of a select breed of engineers, is now a requirement for some high school students.

CBS Boston reports that Beaver Country Day School in Brookline, near Boston, is the first Massachusetts school to make coding part of every class -- not just computer class, but subjects from English to art to history.

English teacher Lisa Brown never imagined it would become an integral part of her teaching style. This isn't how she learned Macbeth. But it seems to be helping her ninth grade students grasp the intricacies of Shakespeare. In Brown's class, one student created a visual learning tool by coding one of the famous murder scenes, and it helped the class understand the text better.

"I think this is the 'aha' moment," Brown told CBS Boston's Paula Ebben. "When you have kids who don't even know what the story is, able to look at a visual and connect with a vague sense of what's happening."

Rob McDonald, the chair of the math department, spearheaded the effort. "If you view coding as one of the new basics in the world that we are in, then it makes sense that students learn to write code in English, and history and science classes," McDonald said.

Computer coding is an integral part of our digital lives, and many industry experts say too few students are learning it. By one estimate, only about 10 percent of schools nationally teach computer science.

An organization called code.org is bringing in some heavy hitters to try to build enthusiasm and support for teaching coding nationwide. Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and actor Ashton Kutcher are among the celebrities trying to sell coding to kids.

Although Beaver is a private school, they say their model wouldn't be hard to copy in public schools at minimal cost. "The tools that our kids are using are almost all free," McDonald said. "They are using languages that are available online, as long as you've got a Wi-Fi connection, you can access these tools and write code. We didn't hire a bunch of new teachers."

Ninth grader Sophie Kaplan enjoys the fact that code has been integrated into English, history and all of her other classes.

"I love it," she gushes. "It's great. I'm doing it in all my classes. I'm working on a project in art currently."

Her classmate Ben Abbott calls it liberating. "When you are able to code, you can do whatever you want."