Pros and Cons of Coding

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.

Bibliography:

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].

 

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10 thoughts on “Pros and Cons of Coding

  1. I think that coding would be new to most students and this would create a curiosity in students to want to learn more, especially those interesting in gaming. Gaming can be educational if presented in the right way, and because of that coding can be educational as well, I think it’s getting the older generation and the parents to get on board with this theory.

    I think it is important that if coding is going to be taught, it is taught early, like a foreign language. So many of the articles I read said that it needed to be taught at a young age because that’s when children’s brains absorb more and it’s easier for them to learn something like this, so why would we want to wait to introduce it to them when they are older and may not get as much out of it.

    It’s another area in education where students can be successful in and get good jobs in the future. The statistics are there that this is a great field with lots of job opportunities, but not too many people are studying this in college. Could it be because they were never exposed to it at an early age, or at all, so most kids don’t know about it or don’t know they would have an interest in doing computer coding for a job? I think as teachers, it is our job to introduce students to as many possibilities in life that they could be part of as possible and this is just another one. I agree that we must be comfortable with it as teachers before introducing it to the class, but we learn lots of other things to introduce to the students, why not this?

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    1. I agree with everything you said. I have students who have learned the basics of coding from Khan Academy. There are so many resources out there that our students could help us feel comfortable with it. As you mentioned, it provides a new window of opportunity for our students. At least one of my students pops out to me that would be a terrific programer in the future. He loves coding and the math behind it. I’m sure his knowledge has already surpassed my basic knowledge when it comes to coding. He’s in, but we need to support him and make sure that he has opportunities for the future. My concern is that he will never get that support because teachers may not know how to best reach him because they do not have backgrounds in coding. When my school participated in the Hour of Code, I was the only teacher that felt comfortable with it, and I helped the other teachers work with the program to get students set up. It needs to be taught early, but not by a teacher who doesn’t know what coding is or how it works – that won’t help our students. I think coding should be a part of undergraduate education programs. I took a technology class when working towards my undergraduate degree; it focused on using Google Docs, making videos with iMovie, and other various things. If each program had a class like this that also taught the basics of coding, we would be in great shape.

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  2. I feel that teaching coding is too narrow of a skill to teach to our students. I love that it is offered in schools, and I think that it is a worth while skill to have… but I think the roadblocks are too many. Right now being a computer coder is an in-demand skill. How many years before programs are invented to make coding more or less obsolete. I mean, there probably will always be a need for some people to code. But if we are taking about a skill for MOST or MANY students… I’d put my money on creativity, critical thinking and collaboration skills that incorporate technology in general. I love the quote by Henry Ford, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Maybe we don’t really need more coders, maybe we need more intelligent creative thinkers.

    Just how are schools today going to find teachers who can teach coding? If my school pays to give me this top-notch industry skill… am I going to continue making 75K a year when I can go get a job for twice that? I might, cause I love teaching, but this is a legitimate concern.

    Politicians love to think big and make broad declarations cause its good for reelections. President Obama can talk all he wants about STEM improvement. Can you have such a strict adherence to standardized testing and also truly want to attack STEM deficiencies? If educators could do it all, we would have done it already. There needs to be freedom to really address STEM subjects and that doesn’t exist in our current system and will not be solved by offering coding.

    My two bits… I enjoyed your blog!

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    1. I understand your point of view; however, I still come down on the side of teaching coding. Though it is a more specialized skill, technology has moved more toward understanding coding. For example, with our blogs coding is present. Coding allows students to express their creativity and be critical thinkers. It makes students think in a different language and explore new ideas. You mention STEM programs – technology is the T in STEM. While coding might not focus on all facets of technology, it is a way to get the foot in the door, so to speak. If we can get coding into classrooms, then we have access to teach students more about technology and the way things work. Further, while you mention that teachers won’t be able to teach coding, I did address that in my reply to Tristan…”I think coding should be a part of undergraduate education programs. I took a technology class when working towards my undergraduate degree; it focused on using Google Docs, making videos with iMovie, and other various things. If each program had a class like this that also taught the basics of coding, we would be in great shape.” Like you comment, you would still be teaching. Teaching isn’t just a job; it’s a calling. We have a duty to provide the best opportunities to our students. I truly believe providing a coding class or an after school club in school will allow students to further explore the world around them.

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      1. I would add. I know nothing about coding… and I probably never will… but I can blog on this website and use apps. Would knowing how to code make my life better? I guess if I wanted a career in the technology industry. Not all students are after that. But regardless all students need the general skills (critical thinking, creativity) regardless of their profession. Make no mistake, I am pro integration of technology in the classroom and coding is one example of that. I am just making the contention that it is too specific of a skill and should not be required for all. After school coding programs sound great!

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      2. Like most things, I think coding could make students’ lives better. I think providing students with the opportunities is our job. Not all students may become coders, but it’s a skill that would make them marketable in the future, just like knowing how to play an instrument or speak another language. Our school uses Word Press for our school website. I’ve had to revisit my coding when working on the website. With our blogs, we’re just doing basics. If it was a website, it would be different and require more knowledge about code. I’m not saying coding is for everyone, but my students were so excited to learn something new and to see the process of how games work. Coding should be a part of every technology program. Should it be the whole program? No, but it should definitely be incorporated, especially if your school has a technology program that already teaches iPad/computer use and typing.

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  3. That is great that your school participated K-8 Hour of Code! I found it difficult to find valid arguments against coding in elementary schools other than the one you found about teachers needing to learn coding first. Other wise how can teachers support students with coding? The only other arguments I found against coding were from people that were concerned that students might not spend enough time focused on the basics. Others argued there is not enough research to show how coding supports learning at the elementary level. The other argument I found was about coding being considered a foreign language. But even those people agreed that coding was important it just should not take the place of a foreign language requirement. I think that coding can be fun and engaging for students.

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  4. You and I were thinking alike this week. I found the same thing to be true about arguments against coding. Most were unconvincing except for the argument about the need for teacher training. There are very few teachers I can think of at my school with coding or programming experience. I like how you addressed this issue. Teachers need to embrace the topic before trying to add it to their curriculum. I mentioned in some of my other blog responses that adding code to teacher education programs is a great way to start. Bringing in new teachers with the knowledge and enthusiasm will help encourage some of us old dogs to try something new.

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  5. Greetings, young app and web developer here asked to read and respond to the blogs of yourself and the other teachers. Take my response as you will, but do keep in mind that I taught myself to program because I did not have the academic resources provided to me (I started even before Hour of Code was a thing) so I speak from experience.

    While it is true that a teacher experienced with programming is a great asset in teaching students to program, this issue is one that was addressed through the creation of the Hour of Code affiliated sites and other online learning platforms. The goal of these websites and resources is to create an environment in which students are able to learn from resources created by people who are experts in this field. This was meant to address the issue that many teachers are not able to teach programming. In my experience, online learning resources, such as the Hour of Code allow students to learn material that the faculty is at the moment unable to provide. In other subject areas, I have seen something similar to this occur – when a teacher is not able to teach them the subject matter, or does a poor job of it, they turn to Khan Academy, where they are able to find the resources that help them pass their assessments. Simply put, there is simply not enough time to teach teachers to code, while there is normally a great deal of work already involved in preparing lessons and focusing on finding new ways to better engage students. This is already a difficult enough job, and learning to code takes a huge deal of time and effort. Instead, it is better (in my opinion) to use online resources created by experts to get students excited and interested in a valuable skill at a young age. Not only is this skill valuable when pursued, the processes required to break down problems into simple steps taught by programming is hugely beneficial in any area, be it writing a coherent essay, or learning one’s part within a performing art. What is more needed than teachers skilled in coding is to give students the ability to seek out the information that they want to know in order to progress in coding. While teaching students to truly understand how to turn search engines to their own advantage to seek out information would be my most valuable advice, I understand that many students do not have the patience or motivation to seek knowledge out in this way. Therefore my next best suggestion would be to turn to the free resource w3c schools( http://www.w3schools.com/ ). This site, created by the same people who made the rules that make web browsers like Chrome and Firefox able to display websites the same way, provides easy to follow and detailed instructions for all one needs to know to make all things web-related. With enough drive and time, one can use the information found here to develop a new Facebook, or create a simple game. With a bit of Google searching into HTML5 game writing in general, the site provides the knowledge to make advanced and polished games like angry birds or doodle jump.

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    1. First, I would like to say that I am very impressed that you taught yourself to code. The little I have learned about coding is self-taught; however my interest lied in other areas rather than coding, so I didn’t keep up with it.

      You make very valid points, especially when it comes to teachers having time to teach classes. In the past, however, my school has had a technology class for all students. My belief is not that coding should take priority in these classes, but it should be offered as part of the class. Coding is a part of technology after all. As students get to high school, my hope is that students would have the ability to take an elective class, whether technology focused or specifically coding. I’m amazed you were able to discover the possibilities with coding, without a teacher providing that for you. My job as a teacher is to provide these opportunities for my students. We need teachers to be aware of the possibilities so students know what’s out there, otherwise some students may not even discover coding. Teachers can teach students to seek out information, but by giving students concrete examples or taking time to do a lesson on coding, it will open their world more than just teaching them how to use a search engine. After my class participated in the Hour of Code this year, I informed them that Khan Academy had a coding component, for which we were already using for math. I had a couple of students take the initiative to work on these components on Khan. I think to provide our children with the best chance for opportunities to discover their passions and give them the best chance at success, it is a balance of what you are proposing and making sure children are aware of what is out there.

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