Trends in Programming

So many languages, which one should you choose?    

Like many other technology items, programming languages and their popularity can ebb and flow. Last year's "must-learn" language has been replaced by something new this year. If you're just getting started with programming, this can be a confusing issue. How do you decide which language (or languages) to learn? There's a good chance that your school's computer science department has already done some research on this topic and spoken with various employers to get an idea of which programming languages are in demand in your area, and tailored their programming courses accordingly.
 
But, if you're looking to broaden your experience and expand the number of programming languages you "speak", the TIOBE Index can be a good spot to start. The index is updated monthly. Not only does it show the top languages, it shows what position that language was in last year, so you can easily see which languages are in steady demand and which may be becoming more popular. In this month's index, the top 5 languages were also on top last year. Of course, there are many other sites that list their predictions for the next top language. It's important to remember that the best programming language can vary depending upon the project your are working on. Ideally, you should become proficient in a base language, such as Java or C, and then expand your programming skills with one or more languages as needed.
 
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Discussion Questions/Activities 
  1. This article is a great way to introduce your students to programming and the career opportunities such skills can offer. Discuss the top languages in the Tiobe Index. Which ones are being taught at your institution? Do students have any prior programming experience? What languages have they worked in?
  2. Divide the class into small groups. While there has not been much change in the top 5 languages, others have been more volatile. Each group should research one of the lower-ranking languages. What is it used for? Is it becoming more or less popular? What might account for this change? Groups should attempt to answer these questions, as well as any others that might arise. Each group should create a presentation to discuss their findings and share some examples of what the coding language looks like.
  3. As an individual project, ask students to explore the increased emphasis on learning to code. Some industry experts think this is a critical skill, but not all agree. How do students feel about this? Students should attempt to explain their position and provide documentation to support their belief in a brief report.



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