For decades, coding was seen as a rare, complicated skill that only few people understood and practiced. For many of us, it seemed impossible to organize all those endless strings of numbers and characters, and to create entire programs and systems that govern our everyday lives. Coding was – and in some cases, still is – a strange, mysterious form of magic.
But that was then.
Now, coding is growing in popularity. So popular, in fact, that children from elementary to high schools across the country are learning how to code – an education that can strengthen their digital literacy skills and prepare them for a future with more career options.
TODAY’S EDUCATION, TOMORROW’S JOBS
According to Wired magazine, coding is anticipated to become not an ivory-tower skill but an everyday one, which will only increase in importance in the future. Consider two figures highlighted in the recent Wired article.
- The national average salary for IT jobs is about $81,000 – more than double the national average for all jobs.
- The IT field is set to expand by 12 percent between 2014 and 2024 – faster than most other occupations.
In the future as more jobs require coding skills, schools will need to address the increasing demand for coding as a core topic in K-12. It’s a subject students need to know in order to better understand and live in our increasingly tech-focused world. It’s a subject that should have its own dedicated class. And, as the Wired article suggests, it’s a subject that doesn’t need to be taught at the college level in advanced computer science classes; it can be taught as a vocation to give students job opportunities as soon as they graduate high school.
ONES AND ZEROES AND MORE
There are additional benefits to coding instruction other than preparing students for careers. The benefits aren’t just practical – they’re intrinsic as well. As with other digital skills, coding contains the seeds for everything from problem-solving to ethical responsibility, as well as mathematics and language.
- Coding allows students to create content, not just consume it. Too often, we’re just passive consumers of technology. But coding puts students in the driver’s seat and gives them the responsibility to think differently about the technology they use in their everyday lives.
- Coding develops teamwork and practical skills. Contrary to popular belief, most great technological and digital developments weren’t the responsibility of a single mind, but a group of minds working together in sync. Think of coding projects as more creative group presentations.
- Coding teaches problem solving and analytical skills. As accessible as it is today, coding is still a somewhat difficult skill to learn. But in practicing it, students can develop powerful ways to creatively solve problems, think outside the box and analyze large sets of data and information.
- Coding is inclusive and builds self-confidence. Coding has nothing to do with gender, race or age – the skill is equally available to everyone. All it requires is a willingness to learn. And the reward a student feels when creating something on his or her own is almost unmatched.
CODING CAN BE FUN (SERIOUSLY!)
What may have been commonly perceived as a monotonous and in-the-weeds task has lately been transformed; the wealth of digital resources (both in the classroom and at home) to help students discover, learn about and practice coding has made coding fun and exciting. It’s not just something students have to learn – it’s something they want to learn.
According to EdSurge, there are different games, apps, lessons, programs and resources to help students explore and master different areas of coding. The names alone of these diverse resources are fascinating and futuristic. (Some of them, in fact, are free.)
- Programming Logic: Games like BitsBox (a monthly subscription service), Move the Turtle and RoboLogic incorporate fun challenges to teach kids a range of concepts and topics from programming problem solving to functions to nesting.
- Visual Coding: Visual blocks are one helpful tool in teaching students how to understand coding-related concepts. Specifically targeting this niche are programs like App Inventor for Android (where students can create Android apps) and Tynker (a classroom dashboard for teaching code).
- Creating Games: What student doesn’t love playing digital games? What if they could actually create them? Some of the tools out there on the market where students can code and design games are Globaloria, Kodu and Stencyl.
- Programming Hardware: Building robots. Powering toys. Students can become hands-on learners and see their coding skills at work in the real world with ed tech resources like Arduino, Primo (for kids as young as three years of age), Raspberry Pi and Sphero.
WHAT EVERY CODER NEEDS: INTERNET
Of course, the foundation for any coding education, at any grade level, is broadband Internet connectivity.
This is important to have both in the classroom, where students and teachers can reap the benefits of the latest coding-related tools and technology, and outside the classroom, where students can practice lessons, complete homework and explore the avenues of coding that speak to their particular interests.
After all, the best kind of young coder is a constantly connected coder.