Education is a swinging pendulum. Whether the debate is to teach whole language learning or teach new math it seems to always be a battle of absolutes. Next battlefield? To code or not to code. Parents, nervous that their kids might live at home forever, combined with a job market in transition, are putting increased demands on educators to start teaching coding, and fast.
But systemic educational change move at glacial speeds. According to Code.org, today, only 34 states allow students to count computer science courses toward high school graduation. Only 10% of schools offer any sort of computer programming classes. Contrast that with the fact that 70% of new jobs rely on some STEM and coding skills. After-school programs and a deluge of consumer products designed to help kids code are picking up the slack.
I take a somewhat pragmatic view. Not teaching coding is unacceptable and so is not teaching great literature. But learning the fundamentals of sequencing, Boolean logic and procedural thinking is probably the best investment today’s schools can make in their future students.
At the end of the day, not every kid is growing up to be a coder. Coding languages change so quickly that the one you learn is likely to be outdated by the time you graduate. But learning how to learn coding is the secret sauce. Just like learning about hubris and braggadocio In your worldly journey comes from Odysseus.
The single best skill learned through coding? Empowerment. Your thoughts can be translated into actions. The very idea that you can produce something useful “that runs” at the end of the process goes against so much of school where you’ve been receiving input from an instructor to a class.
How will schools make time for a coding curriculum when they’re already struggling with the three Rs basic program? Some educators think coding should replace algebra 2 in the syllabus. Many think it should be introduced in the lower grades and used with those who’ve demonstrated passion and aptitude in the upper grades. But the ones I’m most impressed with are the teachers who are not waiting for the system to change, but are changing the system by introducing coding skills throughout their classrooms. From creating animations, to programing a robot to give the class a spelling bee, from collecting and analyzing data sampled from a pond to diagrammatically coding the steps in the school play. Ingenuous teachers are getting students in all classes to think like a coder. Who knows what Odysseus’ fate might have been if he’d been coded into taking an alternate journey.
In the second of this two part series I’ll lay out the choices you have for picking simple coding products to use at home, school or points between.
Robin Raskin is founder of Living in Digital Times (LIDT), a team of technophiles who bring together top experts and the latest innovations that intersect lifestyle and technology. LIDT produces conferences and expos at CES and throughout the year focusing on how technology enhances every aspect of our lives through the eyes of today’s digital consumer.