Colorful flags from different nations and cultures waved in the morning breeze in the courtyard of Eastside High School on Wednesday. Students rushed to their English, Spanish and French classes.
Soon, students may be rushing to a different language class: computer coding.
The Florida Senate passed a bill on Feb. 24, which will give high school students the option to replace foreign language credits with computer coding courses. The bill has now moved on to the House and is waiting to be voted on before the state legislative session ends on March 11.
Carrie Davis, a digital design instructor at Eastside High School, said that coding has always been a language of its own.
“It’s like a puzzle they are building. They have to know which pieces to put together to create a program that you communicate through,” she said.
While Davis said she is excited about the prospect of more students learning how to code and being prepared to enter a changing workforce, there is still value in being exposed to a language.
Dustin Adams, the curriculum specialist for World Languages in Alachua County Public Schools, said the World Language department is anxious about the bill’s progress.
“Computer coding does not study music, dress, tradition, or culture in general,” Adams stated in an email. “Coding also does not prepare our students to communicate as a global citizen. These are great losses as coding becomes an alternative to a language course.”
Nancy Iafrate, a teacher specialist for Career and Technical Education in Alachua County Public Schools, said the choice between teaching students how to speak a foreign language or how to code is difficult.
“Both courses are very, very important. I think it’s an individual choice for the student,” Iafrate said.
Educators across the state are still waiting for the bill’s final draft in order to implement new courses. The bill would require each county to submit course curriculum plans by January 2017.
Iafrate said there are still many challenges to be worked out with this bill, such as out-of-state college credit.
The bill requires that Florida College System institutions and state universities must accept computer-coding credits as foreign language credits. However, replacing these classes may not meet out-of-state college requirements.
The bill will also require each student and his or her parent to sign a statement showing they understand that distinction.
Currently, students may take coding courses through Florida Virtual School and will continue to have that option even if the bill is passed.
Iafrate said another difficult challenge will be training current instructors to code, as well as finding instructors for all seven high schools in the county.
If the bill is passed, the introduction of these courses as a foreign language credit option may take effect in the 2018-2019 school year.