What are coding classes and why the push?While the exact nature of these classes and how coding will be taught is still developing, the main idea is to teach kids from early on about the basic concepts of programming. And as someone who knows at least some of the core concepts, I can tell you that if done right, it’s not as hard – or scary – as you might imagine.According to a New York Times article by Matt Richtel:
Since December, 20,000 teachers from kindergarten through 12th grade have introduced coding lessons, according to Code.org, a group backed by the tech industry that offers free curriculums. In addition, some 30 school districts, including New York City and Chicago, have agreed to add coding classes in the fall, mainly in high schools but in lower grades, too. And policy makers in nine states have begun awarding the same credits for computer science classes that they do for basic math and science courses, rather than treating them as electives.This is no longer just a maybe thing. It’s here and it’s growing. And they are using video games and puzzles and other fun stuff to help teach the building blocks and logic. As students progress, educators are finding creative ways to weave the skills into all kinds of courses – even non-scientific ones – to help increase relevancy and make the learning easier.
But how many people will really need to know coding?An argument against this – well, there are many – is that this is a trade school skill. No more or less. And there is no reason to force people to know something they may never need.But of course the same argument can be made for algebra and history, even though if one looks more closely at each, we can find important reasons to know some of both. And I think the same case can be made for coding.Some of my thoughts:
- It adds a very marketable skill – or at least an aptitude for picking up whatever will be in demand at the time of graduation and beyond.
- It teaches priceless skills like logic, creativity (really!) and creating a methodology, with actually concrete evidence that you either got it or didn’t. Not something we can say about much of what we learn.
- It will help produce more adults in this country who can take the jobs that are hard to fill (assuming we can keep those jobs here for other reasons). But it will also create workers who can imagine differently, whether in a software company or the film industry or when developing solutions to global warming.
- Computers and apps and lord knows what else will be the foundation of future generations and industries we can’t yet envision. These classes – even just the aptitude gained – can give managers and entrepreneurs a much firmer understanding of a world that, as of now, we entrust to experts without always knowing enough to manage what they do.
- People I know who are bright in all other ways, are intimidated by computers and what’s behind the curtain. This is too important to fear. If we are exposed to computers at this level at a young age – not just learning to use some program, but actually learning what goes into building it – imagine the new possibilities and worlds it will open up.
The unknownsAs so often happens, a cool idea can be folded, spindled and mutilated into bad educational methods. I would hate it if it pushes kids away or isolates them for not having coding aptitude. Or if it turns into drills or forces kids to compete directly with kids who have tremendous aptitude without offering any alternatives or extra support.On the other hand, you might see kids who are not great at straight learning and bored to death with the 3 Rs (an not just the geeky set), find themselves excelling when it comes to creating their own version of Angry Birds. And oh the career worlds this knowledge may open up…For this to work, I think it needs to remain engaging, creative, relevant to other parts of student’s life, and offer possibilities that go beyond mere “learn this, do that” thinking. So far it seems hopeful.I would love to know your thoughts.
SOURCE: To listen to the Brian Lehrer Show podcast about this and /or read the comments: Should We Be Teaching Kids to Code?