Why Should Students Learn to Code?
It’s December, which means it’s the Month of Code! Month of Code is a month dedicated to celebrating and using coding in the classroom. To celebrate, each blog post in the month of December will feature specific aspects of coding in the classroom.
You may be asking yourself, should I teach my students how to code? The subject can be controversial, depending on who you ask. So, let’s start by asking the bigger question, why should students learn to code?
Coding, in many ways, is simply a skill like addition, division, or conjugating verbs in another language. It’s more complex, of course, but at its core it’s a skill. Many platforms for teaching coding work primarily on building the skills of coding. When coding is paired with an examination of computational thinking and lateral thinking strategies, however, we come closer to unlocking its true potential as a force for creativity and innovation. If we want our students to be able to do more than just write lines of code, we have to combine coding skills with a conceptual framework for applying those skills.
Coding teaches students how to better understand the world we live in. Erik Missio details in his article Why Kids Should Learn to Code (And How to Get Them Started), “If grade-schoolers are taught biology and mathematics in order to understand the world around them, then knowing the basics of how computers communicate—and how to engage with them—should be a given.”
Even if a student isn’t on a STEM career track, coding is beneficial. No matter what career path they take, all students will benefit from an understanding of both computational and lateral thinking. Both will inform their understanding of how the technology they use everyday functions, and both will be valuable strategies in the way they approach complex tasks in other disciplines. For example, coding builds on skills needed for a variety of jobs, such as working with large data sets, solving large problems, and creating solutions.
According to code.org, only 40% of schools in the US are teaching students how to write code in dedicated computer science courses. More students can gain exposure to coding and build on skills needed in the future from teachers bringing this lesson into their classrooms.
This doesn’t mean that all students need to have an in-depth knowledge of how to code. Just having basic knowledge of how it all fits together can help build skills that are essential in the classroom and beyond. Software developer Steve Atwood compares the skill of coding to being a mechanic in a 2014 NPR All Things Considered interview. "There are tons of cars, there's tons of driving ... but I think it's a little crazy to go around saying everyone should really learn to be an auto mechanic because cars are so essential to the functioning of our society. Should you know how to change oil? Absolutely. There are [also] basic things you should know when you use a computer. But this whole 'become an auto mechanic' thing? It's just really not for everyone."
Bringing coding projects into the classroom can be a fun way to teach skills that cannot be taught on their own. Next week we’ll dive deeper into coding and explore the top 5 skills students can learn through coding.
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No matter your experience, there is a coding and design course for you:
Introduction to Coding in the Classroom: Uncover the thinking and learning processes that are inherent in coding as well as explore different resources to help bring computer programming into the classroom. This course is designed for educators K-12, who have little or no previous programming experience.
Coding & Design: Learn several ways of thinking about complex problems and their solutions and create an impact project that incorporates elements of design thinking and/or app design practices. No coding experience is required.
Advanced Coding & Design: Embedding Computational Thinking: Discover a variety of ways to bring elements of coding into the classroom to build the foundational skills and ways of thinking that underpin computational science. No coding experience is required.