I’ll be honest – coding feels very unnatural and strange to me. I have never learned how to code or truly understand how coding works and it worries me, quite frankly. I am interested in how coding can be a beneficial learning experience for students but I am finding it difficult to truly understand it myself. My only experience with coding was in my high school Computer Science class, in which we were assigned to create a game. I don’t recall how I created the game at all and I am not sure if we were actually thoroughly taught how it works. I attempted to code something small on Scratch – it really does not do anything and definitely lacks complexity. But I figured it would be more significant for me to explore and research coding and how it could be used in a classroom.
The article by Doug Belshaw titled “This is Why Kids Need to Learn How to Code” provides some background information on what coding is and how students can learn from it. What stood out to me in this article was the quote:
“I should re-emphasise that by ‘learning to code’ we’re talking about skills and competencies that people can be better or worse…The important thing here is the attitude and approach of the individual, not necessarily how polished their outputs are” (Belshaw, 2013).
It is so important to recognize that not all students will become experts in this area – the goal is to open up students to new opportunities in order to appeal to all individual interests and strengths, as well as to build knowledge and experience. Whether students find themselves interested in coding or not, the experience is worthwhile and will help build skills and competencies that might have been neglected without it. So what are the benefits? Belshaw points out three different areas in which students can be positively influenced by coding: problem-solving, (digital) confidence, and understanding the world. What I found most interesting is the idea that coding can help students become more confident in oneself as well as more aware of the possibility of creating something themselves, rather than just consuming the ideas of others. In addition, students can begin to understand that complex and innovative advances in the world are created by people – they can begin to see their own potential in society.
Code.org has some great resources for beginning learners and beyond. There are so many great instructional videos and tutorials that can really jumpstart an educator’s understanding of code or for a student. The virtual walk-through of how coding works, what is actually happening when you do code, and the step-by-step process is very helpful. The “unplugged computer science” resource is also very interesting and would be a great step forward from traditional learning to a integration of technology.
Below is a very interesting TED Talk on why it is beneficial to teach students how to code. One of the points that struck me was the recognition that coding can help students express themselves.
Overall, I want to continue learning more about coding. From what I know so far, students can truly benefit from learning the language of coding. I want to offer my future students the most beneficial opportunities in order to encourage lifelong learning, self-confidence, and success in life.