Coding 101: Teaching computer programming in the classroom

Trends in education

I often compare the field of education, especially my own small school community, to a roller coaster. A new idea or theory comes along and everyone hops in the front seat and charges to the top of the highest peak.

Excitement.

Nervousness,

Energy,

Maybe a little bit of pride.

They teeter at the top for a short while and then the bottom drops out. After a few moments of enjoying the free fall, many get sick of the ride. Some want to get off. Some hold out to the end. A few die-hards want to have another go. Then the next mega coaster opens up and we start all over again.

That is what often happens in education. We charge ahead full steam when a new idea comes on the scene. We put all of our time and effort into making it work. Then for one reason or another.

Lack of funding. Lack of results. Lack of resources.

These ideas fizzle out and we are back to the drawing board on how to invigorate our students and ourselves. Waiting for something that will stick.

After doing some research, I think the push to teach coding may just be different. At least, I hope it is.

What is Coding?

Coding is basically computer programming. Lines of code become a set of instructions that a computer can translate into actions. There are different types of coding styles, but all have the same purpose: To  provide directions for a computer to carry out a task. Apps. Google. FaceBook. This Blog. All work because someone coded them to do so.

Before this week, I had absolutely no experience with coding. I kind of knew what it was,  but I never tried any of it. Now, I get it. It is a whole new language and I can’t wait to become more fluent in it.

Coding in the Classroom

We are a technology-based society. My nephew knew how to swipe on his mom’s cell phone before he could speak a full sentence. He is now 4 years old and just taught my 80 year old dad how to use Skype – over the phone.

Technology is here to stay. If we plan to compete in the ever-changing digital marketplace, then we have the obligation to teach our children the skills that they need to be successful.  Knowing how technology works and how to create it is just as important as knowing how to use it.

Advantages of Teaching Coding

There are many advantages to teaching coding in the classroom, to students as early as kindergarten:

  • Supply and Demand: The field of Computer Science is skyrocketing, but the number of students graduating with the proper degree is not keeping up with the need.  We have to keep up with the technology needs
  • Coding teaches students:
    • Problem solving strategies
    • Analysis skills
    • Creativity
    • Logic Skills
  • Coding cant be taught in a variety of levels so that students of all ages and abilities can actively participate in the process
  • Coding can be taught across the curriculum in almost any subjects

Concerns with the Coding Trend

Just as there are not enough students to cover the projected job spike in Computer Programming jobs, there are also not enough teachers who are qualified to teach coding in the classroom.  Free training programs are available to help teachers learn code basics  such as workshops on Code.org

Awesome Coding ideas for any classroom

1. Hour of Code

Hour of Code is a global movement that provides a one hour introduction to computer science through a variety of online tutorials. It takes place every year during Computer Science Education Week.

2. Coding Robots

I attended the annual NJ Council For Exceptional Children Conference this year. One workshop demonstrated the use of 2 types of code-able robots that I have actually just ordered for my classroom! I can’t wait to try them out in September. These robots will allow students of different skill levels and physical abilities to try the process of Coding.

Ozobots
Sphero

Additional resources on coding

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5 thoughts on “Coding 101: Teaching computer programming in the classroom

  1. Your first section really spoke to me! I feel the same way about education. When I was leaving school the last day two of my fellow teachers were talking about the new spelling and vocabulary program they would be using next year. I had to stop and say has there ever been a year when there was not a major change to some part of curriculum. Although I understand the need to keep things fresh and keep up with the new, at times it seems to overwhelming. It seems that just as soon a you get used to something the school gets rid of it and it is on to something new. However, I agree with you that I hope this is not the case with coding.

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  2. Great post! There are so many advantages to teaching code is school. But, it’s also important to think of why coding might not be taught, like funding. Thanks for all the information!

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  3. Hi Regina,
    I liked your connection to education as a roller coaster. It is very important that we keep our students up to date with technology. Like you said your nephew was able to swipe on a phone before he could speak a full sentence, technology is a major part of society today. I also was not aware of coding before this week’s assignment. Since this was a new topic to me, the different resources available on the internet were very helpful. I think the videos and information you included on your blog helped me gain a further understanding of coding. Thanks!

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  4. Thanks for the response! Sometimes I feel like we just make changes for the sake of making changes. Just because something is new, does not necessarily mean it is better. Just because you can do something, does not mean that you should. Very frustrating

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