Week 6: What are the compelling arguments both for and against computer coding in schools? #uaemergtech

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Reading, writing, arithmetic, and coding?  While the educational world has been slow to implement some of the emerging technologies, there is no doubt that a push for higher student performance will initiate future measures.  Traditional methods of education have been scrutinized as technology allows us to enrich student learning in ways previously thought impossible.  Educators are excited by the freedom and creativity technology provides and there is great carryover benefits to many subject areas.  In keeping with our drive to help students create and integrate technology, offering computer coding to students may be a natural fit.  The implementation of coding in our schools presents both positive and negative aspects.

President Obama has issued the charge for U.S. schools to attack our nation’s failings in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) subject areas.  One way for us to equip our students for the increasing technology demands of our world is to widely implement coding into our curriculum.  “Apps now manage nearly every aspect of our lives, personally and professionally. We have dozens of apps on our smartphones and tablets for our finances, fitness and everything in between; and we rely on nearly as many to do our jobs” (Scratch, nd).  Nearly all businesses are being transformed by the App, and coding is at the heart of App creation.  It is easy to connect the dots and try to prepare our students for a successful transition into the world of work by equipping them with the skills to code.

By the year 2020, it is estimated that we will see a 22% increase in computer related jobs.  This industry is growing faster than most other jobs (Zamora, 2014).  As if this isn’t exciting enough, there is also strong evidence to show coding develops motor neuron pathways and opens the gates to new learning (Zamora, 2014).  Coding allows for students to become more creative and to solve complex problems.  For these reason alone it certainly seems worth it for schools to turn a focus on to coding and there is a strong push to require Computer Science as a core subject area.  Some districts, like Chicago Public Schools, are moving forward with making Computer Science a core subject “In order to prepare our children for careers in the 21st century, we’ve increased access to high-quality STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs throughout the district,” said district CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett (Zumbach, “CPS to make computer science a core subject”).

There are many compelling arguments for offering coding in schools.  I would not, however, like to see it be a requirement at any high levels.  First of all, not every student needs to code to be successful in this world.  Schools are already taxed to provide the basic educational coverage to their students as it it.  As Schwartze says in her argument against coding in schools, “achieving universities’ top-down demands to deliver students with writing, comprehension, and communication and mathematics skills is already a tall order.  Throwing yet another demand into the mix would be unrealistic for many schools, and for the students” (2014).  If we are going to require coding why should we stop there?  Why not require plumbing, carpentry, or accounting courses?  These courses would all be valuable for students to know as well, but it is simply not practical to offer everything.  If we are going to require coding in schools it will mean two things.  First, students will need to forgo time spent learning (presumably) other core subjects.  Second, schools will need to hire professionals who are equipped to teach coding.  (Luring teachers from more lucrative fields may be problematic.)  Finally, teaching a coding language in use today may not necessarily be widely useful next year.  “In order to empower everyone to build apps, we need to focus on bringing greater abstraction and automation to the app development process. We need to remove code — and all its complexity — from the equation” (Scratch, nd).  Coding as we know it today may not exist, or be necessary for future App creation and development.  Teaching students to think critically and creatively and to have confidence exploring the world of technology may be a better focus for our schools than a specific coding skill.

There are many benefits to offering computer coding in schools.  It is clearly has value that will foster creativity, problem solving, and potentially develop a skill to fast track a career.  I would not like to see coding required at advanced levels for all students, however.  I do not feel that the benefits outweigh the problems for widespread coding requirements.   I think it would be very forward thinking of schools and universities to accept coding as a foreign language substitute and I would like to see it available at all schools.  Coding is a very important skill and should be widely offered at our schools.  Yet I am far more concerned with developing critical thinking students with a desire to be life-long learners than I am students with an advanced narrow and specific skill set.

@JasonBoerger

Works Cited:

Baron, S. (n.d.). 20 Resources for Teaching Kids How to Program & Code. Retrieved June 23, 2015, from http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/20-resources-for-teaching-kids-how-to-program-code-200374

Drum, K. (2014, April 23). Not everyone needs to learn programming, but every school should offer it. Retrieved June 23, 2015, from http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/04/not-everyone-needs-learn-programming-every-school-should-offer-it

Schwartze, B. (2014, November 14). Should we teach computer science in elementary school? Retrieved June 23, 2015, from https://www.iste.org/explore/articledetail?articleid=216

Scratch, G. (n.d.). Should We Really Try to Teach Everyone to Code? Retrieved June 23, 2015, from http://www.wired.com/2015/02/should-we-really-try-to-teach-everyone-to-code/
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/
Zumbach, L. (2013, December 10). CPS to make computer science a core subject. Retrieved June 23, 2015, from http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-12-10/news/ct-cps-computer-science-plan-met-1210-20131210_1_computer-science-ceo-barbara-byrd-bennett-code-org
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4 thoughts on “Week 6: What are the compelling arguments both for and against computer coding in schools? #uaemergtech

  1. I don’t think that it should be required at any level, unless you are pursuing a career in it of course. But, I do think it would be a great opportunity for students wanting to pursue this career to get some background in it before getting to college and having to start from square one. One of the articles talked about giving a foreign language credit for taking computer credit. I think this would be a great way to implement it in schools because students wouldn’t be required to take it, but it would be an option for those students who had interest. Sometimes I think that learning a foreign language is sometimes a waste of time because kids are taking a foreign language that they could never use, but if they are interested in computer science, this could help them get a foot in the door and not be a waste of time. While what we teach today about coding may not be useful next year, I think it would still give them the background and knowledge of how to work with coding and when it changes they will be able to apply what they know already to the new.

    It was good to read your blog because so many articles stated all the reasons to have coding in school and I didn’t really get any reasons against coding in school like I did while reading what you had to say.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, coding may take a little time out of a student’s schedule, and it may put upon them an unnecessary burden, BUT it actually helps them enough to be worth the time taken away from other subjects. Realizing how this could even make sense takes the realization that the subjects aren’t just isolated fields that one must study exclusively in order to master. The fields are all interrelated because they utilize the same core set of skills, problem solving. If students learn to code, if only a little, they gain the skill to analyze a goal, break it down into small objectives, complete these objectives, and but it together to complete the goal. If that doesn’t sound familiar to you, those are almost exactly the steps required to write a good essay, but coming at the problem of problem solving in a completely new environment of coding can help students find out ways to think that are new and useful in all subjects. In short, learning the problem solving intrinsic to coding can help students see the goal of an essay on freedom, break freedom down into four or five parts, and then figure out how to write about each of those parts and tie them together into a fantastic essay.

    By the way I’m a young developer asked to read and comment on these blogs.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Good point and thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my blog. I appreciate your points about the transfer of problem solving and critics thinking skills learned through coding. If teachers are given the freedom to explore coding I think there would be many benefites. Thanks again.

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  4. I agree with you that learning coding is valuable, but with the demands on schools to improve test scores finding time is challenging. I teach at a title I school so my schedule can be rigid. At the elementary level I do not see coding becoming part of the curriculum. I do like the idea of an after school coding club though. At the middle and high school level coding could be offered as an elective. To me this is more realistic.

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