Our students have the opportunity to change the world, and there are many many ways they’ll be able to do that. From building skyscrapers to figuring out our pollution problems. From curing cancer to developing the next social media platform. We don’t even know what jobs will be available for our students when they graduate. Who would have thought you could be hired to be a Digital Marketing Specialist, Blogger, SEO Expert, or Cloud Service Specialist 10 years ago? No one! They didn’t exist!
While the 4 C’s have been on the radar the last few years (Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, and Critical Thinking), I would suggest we have another C to add to the group: Coding. So why coding you ask? Great question. According to Edutopia, coding is a new literacy. Learning how to read, write, and think in coding will only help us expand our thoughts and abilities. It will also improve equity by providing all students access to technology and capacity to learn how to manipulate the devices they use every day. It provides inclusion for all students no matter their age, race, gender, special education abilities or anything else. Anyone can code! It also improves neuroplasticity, or the ability to change and develop the brain. And lastly, from Edutopia, it improves STEM proficiencies. I would even argue it promotes STEAM proficiency. (Addition of A in STEAM is for Arts - both fine arts and language arts.)
Not only these reasons but there are some real numbers behind coding. According to EdSurge, as of November of 2015, there were close to 600,000 computer science/coding jobs available. How many CS students were there to fill these jobs? 38,000. With demand as it is, companies are offering huge salaries, bonuses, and work benefits and perks to those who go into this field. Want to work from the beach? Wear a hoodie to work instead of a tie? Work on the games and apps you use on your phone? There are a million reasons to learn to code!
So what does coding, in general, teach kids? From Code.org’s Teach site, there are many things coding teaches us: Computational Thinking such as Decomposition, Patterns, Abstraction, and Algorithms. Programming Concepts such as Sequencing, Loops, Conditionals, Functions, Functions with Parameters, and Variables. Not only these but real life interpersonal skills and relationship building, too. Whether you end up coding as a job or not, there are real-world skills that everyone can use every day.
So how do we help our students? What can we do to introduce them to this field and provide the materials they need to succeed in this area? I would start with the Hour of Code. This worldwide program introduces students to the field in just one hour of time. There are many, many sites to support the Hour of Code from those who don’t even have computers (“Unplugged Activities”) to Elementary focused code to higher level coding experiences. Every teacher can do the Hour of Code! From there, the possibilities are endless. Districts may choose to offer specific classes in Computer Science or Coding. They may opt to enhance current curricular areas with computational thinking or programming to support learning or assessment in their subjects. They may also choose a blended approach to offer students the ability to work on their own or take online classes as an independent study option.
Coding matters. And it is going to matter more and more. We need to put the tools in the hands of those who are going to cure the terrible diseases we face. To protect our troops and allies around the world. To find solutions to those wicked problems such as global warming and ocean pollution. This generation of students will face problems we don’t even have yet, and we have the responsibility to give them the mindset, the tools, and the knowledge to be able to solve them.
For more information on the Hour of Code and other resources to support students in Computer Science and Coding, visit: https://code.org/educate
Coding in the Classroom: A Long-Overdue Inclusion | Edutopia." 2015. 6 Jun. 2016 http://www.edutopia.org/blog/coding-classroom-long-overdue-inclusion-merle-huerta
"A Beginner's Guide to Bringing Coding Into the Classroom | EdSurge ..." 2015. 6 Jun. 2016 https://www.edsurge.com/news/2015-11-30-a-beginner-s-guide-to-bringing-coding-into-the-classroom
"Teach - Code.org." 2014. 6 Jun. 2016 https://code.org/educate