This past year, my school, kindergarten through eighth grades, participated in Hour of Code. Previous to this, I had been exposed to code; my experiences with code came from from different websites. My knowledge was limited; however, I was still ahead of my colleagues. Before throwing students into coding, we showed them a short video from the Hour of Code website to give them a background on it. I had two students who were very excited about the coding itself. Many of my female students were excited about the Anna and Elsa portion of the hour. All in all our Hour of Code went off very well. Unfortunately, the hour took place during rehearsals for our Christmas program. Some students spent time rehearsing rather than coding. We were able to complete the hour at another time. However, during our school year, we never made it back to coding.
Coding is quite simply what “makes it possible to create computer software, apps, and websites” (Code Conquest, 2015). Behind all website designs, there is coding. Recently the Hour of Code was started as a way to expand participation in computer science and make the field more accessible to everyone (Hour of Code, 2015). Coding has been evolving for many years. With the Hour of Code, coding has been brought into the classrooms much more than in the past, especially for younger students. Because of this, a debate on coding in classrooms has begun.
When looking at arguments for keeping coding out of schools, I found some of the arguments less compelling than others. For example, one argument stated that teaching kids to code was a scam and tied declining academic achievement to the increasing number of computers in the classroom (Dvorak, J., 2014). Further, teaching kids to code is just a ploy to sell machines and coding isn’t really about the kids. Another argument detailed coding as a problem until the appropriate age of development, approximately fourteen years old, and that computer exposure should not be based on capability but developmental appropriateness (Amico, B., 2014). Because I had participated in the Hour of Code and have seen the way technology can be developmentally appropriate for those younger than fourteen, these arguments seemed less compelling than others.
It wasn’t until I read a perspective from Lewis, that I saw a compelling argument against teaching kids to code. Before teaching kids to code, we must first teach teachers to code by shifting paradigm and providing more professional development for teachers (2013). As I learned in my undergraduate program,students need to be able to apply learning to real-world problems, the same is true of coding. Further, teachers need to embrace the technology of coding and feel comfortable with it before bringing it to the students. Then as teachers feel more comfortable with coding, it can be brought into schools and classrooms.
Coding is a real-world future for our students. While students still need skills of the past, our world has changed and learning to code can help students craft and shape their future (EdSurge Guide, 2015). We are doing our students a disservice by waiting until high school to teach coding. If more schools taught coding, it could be the difference between students finishing high school versus students dropping out (Vilson, J., 2014). Coding has gone mainstream.
As a teacher I know that each student learns in a different way. Some students learn visually, while others learn through auditory. Some students will be more successful if we provide them with their best chance for success. For some, this means being more open to new ideas, technologies, and pedagogies, even if it is out of our comfort zone. This is the way I think of coding. After my one experience with it through the Hour of Code, I had several students excited, successful, and wanting to do more. It did not take away from their other learning and more importantly, they were excited to learn. I hope as technology continues to evolve, so will our policies to allow for teacher development to incorporate coding in the classroom.
Amico, B. (2014, May 12). Other skills should take priority over coding [Computing in the classroom]. Retrieved June 20, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/05/12/teaching-code-in-the-classroom/other-skills-should-take-priority-over-coding
Code Conquest. (2015). What is coding? Retrieved June 21, 2015, from http://www.codeconquest.com/what-is-coding/
Dvorak, J. (2014, May 12). Teaching kids to code is a scam [Computing in the classroom]. Retrieved June 20, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/05/12/teaching-code-in-the-classroom/teaching-coding-to-kids-is-a-scam
EdSurge Guide. (2015). Teaching kids to code. Retrieved June 21, 2015, from https://www.edsurge.com/guide/teaching-kids-to-code
Hour of Code. (2015). FAQs. Retrieved June 20, 2015, from http://hourofcode.com/us#
Lewis, J. (2013, June 2). We’re not ready to teach kids to code [Practical elegance]. Retrieved June 21, 2105, from http://decomplecting.org/blog/2013/06/02/were-not-ready-to-teach-kids-to-code/
Vilson, J. (2014, November 4). Coding opens doors [Computing in the classroom].