Some proponents of the coding movement in schools made a few key points that really resonated with me. Just like with many other technological components, coding encourages students to work together and learn collaboration skills, as explained by Mitch Resnick in the TED Talk video. In addition to collaboration, a news story by a Minnesota news station reported that while using coding in local schools, the teachers were able to see that their students were learning and developing logic and critical thinking. In this video it was also clear that students were proud of their work and engaged and excited to share their learning. Now many different subjects use games to interest students in learning, but by creating their own games, students are engaged and using their brains in much deeper ways than they would be by just playing a game to learn.
The Minnesota news station also reported that teaching young student to code now will encourage them to pursue more computer science and technology classes as they get older in high school and also hopefully college. Apparently less than 3% of college graduates earn a computer science degree, yet as technology becomes more prevalent computer scientists will be in high demand (Zamora, 2014). Interesting student in computer science while they are you will encourage them to pursue these kinds of careers.
Learning to code is like learning a second language, and as it has been proven before, the earlier children learn a new language the easier they can pick it up and have more success assimilating it into their knowledge set (Harrell, 2015). Some schools want coding to be more than just an elective, and want it to count as foreign language credits. If the class help students meet graduation requirements it may be a higher incentive for them to take it, rather than just as general elective credits (Zamora, 2014).
Programs like Scratch, presented in Resnick’s Ted Talk video seem like really relevant and practical tools for teachers and students to use in school. However the biggest challenge of mandating code use, even in a use friendly program like Scratch, is ensuring that teachers are appropriately trained and that schools have the resources necessary, such as enough functioning computers, internet and time in the schedule for coding. Allowing that a school had good internet and enough good computers, the only way I can really imagine mandatory coding in school working is if students do it for an hour or so each week, just like an art or music class. This would be a great way to expose student to coding without it taking over the school’s agenda. Coding, and most technological platforms are not a part of the state standards, and therefore it is challenging to ask teachers to take too much time away from regular instruction to do something that is not a part of the standards, yet is mandatory…it doesn’t make sense.
Also, honestly, just on a personal note, I think making something ‘mandatory’ is a great way to take the fun and uniqueness out of it, and to discourage kids to explore it on their own. I know when I was a student, just hear the word mandatory, even if it was in conjunction with something I liked, made me disinterested. I think schools and experts should encourage, expose and provide opportunities for teachers and students to sue coding during the school day, but I do not think they should make it mandatory.
Harrell, M. (2015, March 15). Add Coding to Your Elementary Curriculum. . . Right Now. Retrieved June 23, 2015, from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/add-coding-elementary-curriculum-now-matt-harrell
Ted Talk Video: http://www.ted.com/talks/mitch_resnick_let_s_teach_kids_to_code?language=en#t-134744
Zamora, W. (2014, April 1). Why Coding Should Be Taught in Elementary School. Retrieved June 23, 2015, from http://techblog.evan-moor.com/2014/04/01/coding-taught-elementary-school/