A Journey Through Technology

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

on June 24, 2016

Coding is something that is pretty new to me. I don’t really have any experience in coding, though I do remember making programs for my TI graphing calculator in calculator, and that I had a fun time doing it. This week we are looking at the arguments both for and against coding in schools.

Pro-Coding Argument

Students want to do things in school that interest them. Gaming is huge among students today, so why not bring gaming into the classroom? Weissmann (2013) mentioned two students that won a 2012 STEM video game competition and during their interview, it came up that “these students don’t think of programming as a whole separate world the way older adults tend to, but as a tool they can use to explore their interests.” (Weissmann, 2013) If we can give students more tools to explore their interests at school, maybe we can get them more involved in our classrooms.

A different article shares three reasons that coding is important in education:

  1. Programming is rapidly becoming a foundational skill that has value across disciplines.
  2. Computer science is a powerful way to teach kids problem solving and critical thinking skills.
  3. Careers in computer science are abundant and lucrative. (3 Reasons Coding Should Be a Core Subject, 2015)

I’ve heard many times that we are preparing students for careers that don’t yet exist, so it makes sense that coding would be important for those future jobs. Technology is constantly changing, so if we can help students keep on top of the changes, they will be better prepared for the real world. Problem solving and critical thinking skills are crucial to many careers and life experiences, so it also makes sense to find new ways to incorporate those skills into the classroom.

Anti-Coding Arguments

Mark Guzdial (2014) discusses some problems with requiring students to take computer science in school. If computer science is a requirement, that means all students must take a course, and there is concern for the lower end students being able to handle computer science classes. There is also concern about the ability of teachers to adapt computer science curricula for special education students, and if not taking computer science should mean they cannot obtain a high school diploma.

There are also concerns about the amount of technology that is used in classrooms today. “The focus has been on how best to use computers as educational tools while largely disregarding the more fundamental issue of their effects on child development.” (Amico, 2014) Amico goes on further to explain that technology should only be used after student have reached the appropriate developmental stage when they have “reached the intellectual maturity to reason abstractly and process concretely on his or her own, around the age of 14.” She also expresses concern that “a child’s natural, instinctive, creative and curious way of relating to the world may be repressed when technology is introduced into learning environments at an early age.”

My Thoughts

Reading through all of these articles this week has given me quite a bit to think about. I definitely think that coding should be offered to students, maybe starting in middle school but for sure offered in high school. I do not think that it should be required for all students, however. It might be a good idea to have students all take an introduction computer or technology class, where they learn a variety of skills, including coding, and then let students decide if they want to pursue coding in more depth.

One of the main obstacles I see in implementing coding in schools is making sure that teachers are adequately trained in coding and how to teach it effectively. According to Guzdial (2014), there are not many computer science teachers right now. “In the U.S., maybe one high school in ten has a computer science teacher. Far fewer schools serving grades 1-6 have CS teachers.” (Guzdial, 2014) If we can overcome this hurdle, I can see coding becoming a positive for many students and will help us to prepare students for unknown jobs to come.

References:

3 Reasons Coding Should Be a Core Subject. (2015, September 29). Retrieved June 23, 2016, from http://gettingsmart.com/2015/09/3-reasons-coding-should-be-a-core-subject/

Amico, B. (2014, May 12). Other Skills Should Take Priority Over Coding. Retrieved June 23, 2016, from http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/05/12/teaching-code-in-the-classroom/other-skills-should-take-priority-over-coding

Guzdial, M. (2014, April 15). The Danger of Requiring Computer Science in K-12 Schools. Retrieved June 23, 2016, from http://cacm.acm.org/blogs/blog-cacm/173870-the-danger-of-requiring-computer-science-in-k-12-schools/fulltext

Weissmann, J. (2013, May 15). Why High Schools Should Treat Computer Programming Like Algebra. Retrieved June 23, 2016, from http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/05/why-high-schools-should-treat-computer-programming-like-algebra/275893/

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5 responses to “Week 6: What are the compelling arguments both for and against computer coding in schools?

  1. unicyclepro says:

    Scary statistics about the number of Computer Science teachers in the school system now. It’s really too bad. Because of this, I think it’s more important to integrate coding in other subjects, and teachers should have a working knowledge of coding. Not a perfect coder, but at least can help students with their own projects. At this point in my teaching career, I am really questioning curricular decisions and high school graduation requirements. You would think that an education system would be malleable. Apparently not the U.S. It is amazing the things we do in school now. Take a look at this site: http://ingvihrannar.com/14-things-that-are-obsolete-in-21st-century-schools/

    Liked by 1 person

  2. aletakmay says:

    Sarah,

    I am wondering whether our current educational system with so much over testing is preparing our students to fear trying to gain the skills they will need for future jobs. Are the assessments we currently give assessing problem solving skills? Maybe in a very limited manner when it comes to math; but if they are not learning critical thinking skills that prepare them to think of more than one option, we are teaching them that problem solving is too hard for them. I think coding helps students to think around situations by finding ways to create that were not previously thought of.

    It seems to me that although we should definitely pay attention to the nuances that manifest throughout a child’s developmental stages, waiting until around age 14 reminds me of trying to shield them from many other things that are natural to their environment. I have to consider too that it is important not to trade computer art for paint and a paintbrush—why not do both?

    It is also okay to learn just a few steps ahead of students, enough to get them going, and then grow with them. In my view, our society has segmented every skill into such a professional subsection that we have feared or shunned people who think to step outside their own professional corner. We segment people by age, by interest (before they know what else is out there to be interested in), in every career field. It is not affordable to even use the services of so many specialized people. Maybe this is why we need to embed computer science into as many subject areas as we can. I like the idea of a MakerSpace where we can reach for drawing paper, hand tools as well as technology tools, all for a variety of ways to demonstrate learning.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I appreciate your perspective about a computer science class being required for those in teacher preparation programs. After all the PE hours and music classes I took in college as part of the general education requirements, it would make sense to add a computer science class to it. I didn’t intend to, but I’ve taught PE and computer programming classes. The more that universities can prepare teachers for, the better off our schools will be in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sarah, I’m so glad I read this! When I was searching for articles this week, I had a hard time coming up with some anti-coding arguments. The arguments you found against coding are very interesting to me. I pulled up the article you read Other Skills Should Take Priority over Coding. I knew this argument was out there, but I just couldn’t find it. This is something I struggle with. I limit my sons’ “screen time,” but then my oldest’s Pre-K teacher talked to me after their first round of computerized testing (yes in PRE-K), and said she had to spend extra time with him because he didn’t know how to use a mouse. This wasn’t a shock to me because he hadn’t used one at home, ever.
    If Amico’s argument that children aren’t ready, developmentally, to reason abstractly with technology is true what does that mean for us? Do we have students coming in to the younger grades that are so over stimulated by technology and screens at home that we should think about our use of technology? Or does this not have any merit? It’s something that I constantly wonder about. The other side of that argument might be that a lot of our students are interested in technology and presenting them with ideas and means of expressing themselves this way will increase their interest in school based learning. In addition to preparing them for future jobs that we don’t even know about yet!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. daysha2016 says:

    I agree with your thoughts on having students have the opportunity to learn coding in middle and high school. I’m not against teaching coding in elementary but I think screen time should be limited. I hadn’t thought about how making it a requirement would affect special education. Special education teachers are amazing at pushing their kids to learn everything that they can. Plus there are so many levels and programs out their teaching coding that I would be surprised if this is an area that some students would really show strengths in. However, their may be kids where there are more important goals and making it a mandatory class would put more stress on the teacher and student.

    Liked by 1 person

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