We are introducing a three-part series on coding for kids and how it is integral to developing the critical skills today’s students need, both now and in the future. In addition, we will feature ideas and tips on how to bring coding into your classroom.
In his final State of the Union address last year, President Obama made a bold statement that could have an ongoing impact for the educational world. He said he believes that public education should offer “every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on Day One.”
I have shared this information with a few parents to see what they thought about introducing a computer science course for all philosophy. Some were very excited—they told me they had purchased coding toys and books for their own children because they see how important it is. Others, my wife included, don’t see what the big deal is. From them, I have heard that they believe it is a noble idea, but teaching kids to code is not an essential part of education, like reading, math, and writing.
Which is it? Is teaching coding in schools the newest fad in education that will go away in three or four years, or will it become a mainstay in school classrooms, like the presidential fitness program that Kennedy began in the 1960s. I think the answer is that it is in our best interest to ensure that coding becomes a mainstay in our classrooms—and sooner, rather than later.
If a teacher still isn’t convinced about the importance of inserting more coding into the classroom, here are some reasons why we must consider adding coding to the curriculum:
Our Automated World
Every day, we find more and more automation occurring in our world, from robotic vacuum cleaners to “smart” devices that help us manage the lights, heat, and locks in our home. The common skill needed for creating and maintaining these automations is computer coding. As the industries in our country continue to expand into these areas, they will need computer scientists to make it happen. Our schools should give students the tools necessary to make this possible.
Jobs to Fill
The demand for STEM jobs, especially in the area of computer science, continues to increase year after year. The US Department of Education projects that by 2018, more than half of all jobs in our country will be in a STEM-related field, citing a Georgetown study for their prediction.
Many of these positions will be filled with workers who are educated in other systems around the world. Our system in the US should also be able to produce workers ready for the workforce when they graduate—this is one of the goals of the Computer Science for All initiative from the US Department of Education. Lofty goals from Washington only become reality through the teachers in the classroom who make it happen.
Great Thinking Skills
As classroom teachers learn more and more about coding, they begin to see how it helps to support students’ thinking skills. Much like algebra, coding is a method of thinking and approach to knowledge that helps students to organize, plan, and think in a linear manner.
The key to success in the future is our students’ ability to see how coding can be applied in other areas of our lives. There are literally hundreds of examples of how to do this, but one example would be in life science. Students could collect data from their Labdisc portable STEM lab, then create a program to use the data to solve a problem.
Here is how it could work: The lab disc can monitor the moisture of a plant over time, and the student can use that data to code a watering device for the plant, a transport to move the plant in or out of the sun, or a fan to cool the plant if needed. The ideas are endless. This is a just a simple example of the many ways that teachers can use coding in a cross-curricular manner, which helps students to solve real problems through learning.
It Supports Next Generation Science Standards
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) that have been gradually implemented over the past three years align well with, and are supported by, coding in the classroom. This is true of skills across all grade levels of the curriculum. There are great resources provided by the National Science Foundation that help teachers to implement coding in the classroom and to understand the philosophy behind it. Many of these resources are even supported financially by grants and initiatives through the federal and state governments.
To create industry-ready students, we must incorporate more computer science into our students’ lives. This could be in the classroom, during science class, or even through after school programs. It is good for students to have both the thinking skills and the practical skills necessary to meet the needs of our changing world.
To read more about this topic, be sure to look out for the next article in our “Why Coding?” series, where we’ll explore adding computer science into your curriculum. Be sure to also check out our other blogs on STEM topics, as well as this article about the “Hour of Code” initiative.