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.
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