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InfoQ Homepage News Java in Education Initiative Aims to Empower the Next Generation of Developers

Java in Education Initiative Aims to Empower the Next Generation of Developers

The Java in Education, launched by the Java Community Process (JCP) Executive Committee, is making significant strides in promoting Java technology within educational institutions. This program seeks to bridge the gap between academia and industry, ensuring that Java remains a foundational skill for aspiring developers.

The initiative was introduced in June 2020 following discussions in JCP Executive Committee meetings. The JCP program, in collaboration with various Java User Groups (JUGs), aims to create and distribute educational materials highlighting modern Java's benefits and capabilities. The goal is to dispel myths about Java's limitations and demonstrate its relevance and power in contemporary software development.

Among the resources developed are presentations and videos showcasing advancements in Java, such as JShell in JDK9 and the Instance Main Methods preview feature in JDK 21. These features simplify the learning process for new developers, allowing them to write code without needing to grasp the complexities of large-scale programming concepts initially.

The initiative also emphasizes the importance of the Visual Recognition API (JSR 381), which provides standardized APIs for machine learning tasks, including object recognition in images. This API is part of a broader effort to integrate machine learning capabilities within the Java ecosystem, making it accessible for educational purposes.

Several JUGs around the world have actively participated in this initiative. For example, the JOZI-JUG has conducted coding workshops for children as part of their Devoxx4Kids South Africa program. These workshops have introduced Java programming to primary and high school students, equipping them with fundamental coding skills.

Similarly, the Garden State Java User Group (GSJUG) collaborates closely with Drew University and local high schools. They host interactive sessions where students learn about Java and explore careers in computing. The Dominican Republic JUG (Java Dominicano) has also contributed by organizing workshops and talks on machine learning in Java, enhancing local students' understanding of this critical field.

These JUGs' efforts were recognized at the 2023 JCP Annual Awards, with JOZI-JUG winning the Java in Education Community Award. The initiative continues to seek support from educators and community members to expand its reach and impact.

InfoQ spoke with Heather VanCura, a vice president, director, and chairperson of Oracle's Java Community Process (JCP) Program, and Barry Burd, a professor at Drew University and owner of Burd Brain Consulting, to learn more about Java and Education.

InfoQ: What are the key benefits of teaching Java to students compared to other programming languages?

Heather VanCura: Java was created almost 30 years ago, and it continues to be one of the leading programming languages. It powers some of the most popular websites in the world and is the driving force behind Wikipedia, Spotify, Google, Amazon, and many other sites. Java developers are among the world’s most highly paid developers, and Java is one of the most in demand skills by employers. Java solves real-world problems globally across every industry. Once students are working in industry, the majority of projects will include Java code, so learning Java will provide students with the opportunity to succeed in industry.

Java can guide your career growth. There is a wide variety of resources to help students learn Java and to paths to follow to become a certified Java developer. Since Java is developed transparently, it is easy to stay informed when new versions of Java are released and to learn about new features. The ecosystem of tools, libraries, and implementations ensures Java remains vibrant and provides developers with choices. With a robust global community all over the world, there are local Java User Groups that build professional networks that may eventually lead to an internship or a job.

InfoQ: What impact has the initiative had on educational communities so far?

Barry Burd: I like teaching Java because it's a well-constructed, industrial-strength language. It's a good model for introducing students to important programming concepts. Many college programs start with Python instead of Java. But Python programmers don't emphasize object-oriented programming. And Python has fewer safeguards in place to insure a program's security and correctness. Another alternative would be C++. But I find C++ to be centered too much on hardware implementation. With Java, you don't have to think about memory addresses and other such things. Instead, you think about the problem you're trying to solve.

VanCura: Since the initiative's start in 2020, many local communities have collaborated with educators and institutions globally, including Bangladesh, India, Burkina Faso, the Dominican Republic, South Africa, Singapore, the USA, and Canada.

We’ve documented success stories from various Java User Groups (JUGs) and leaders like Bazlur Rahman (Bangladesh), Mala Gupta (India), and Constantin Drabo (Burkina Faso). For example, the Garden State JUG in New Jersey has actively engaged students.

In 2023, the JCP Executive Committee met with students and faculty in Singapore and Montreal, identifying a need for an updated Java curriculum and resources on modern features. This feedback led to developing materials focused on Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) using Java. Our presentation demonstrates Java’s ease of use in AI/ML, leveraging the JSR 381 Visual Recognition Specification, which simplifies AI/ML tasks with minimal code.

For more details, you can read our comprehensive article here.

InfoQ: What future plans are there to expand the initiative to reach more educational institutions globally?

VanCura: We have provided the materials and examples of communities connecting with universities. In the future, we would like to spread more awareness and empower local Java communities to take the next step and leverage the materials as inspiration and an opportunity to grow their own community, develop future leaders in their community, and bring in the next generation to the Java ecosystem at large and their own network.

The materials show the opportunities for employment that students who learn Java will have in industry. They highlight some of the newer modern features and where they can learn Java. They also include how to use ML/AI with Java and what it looks like to work as a developer in industry.

We want people to use the materials we developed based on feedback from faculty and students around the world. Working together, Java User Groups and Universities can help inspire the next generation of Java developers.

The full list of developed materials on Java in Education is available on the Wiki. Many of the materials are available in Spanish, and we hope to translate them into other languages based on participation from Java User Group leaders who want to become involved.

Educators, students, and Java enthusiasts are encouraged to join the Java in Education initiative to foster the next generation of Java developers. For further details and to participate in this transformative initiative, visit the Java in Education site and explore how you can contribute to making Java a cornerstone of modern education.

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