Friday, April 29, 2016

Yes, All Children Should Try Coding #EdChat

I read another wonderful post from the amazing Pernille Ripp the other day and that had me thinking. That is not unusual because all of her posts have me thinking at the end, but this one had me pushing back a little in my head, so I'm going to share it here. 

Pernille's post, Not Every Kids Wants to Learn How to Code, has some wonderful points that I cannot disagree with here. 

Pernille wrote, "not every kid wants to be a computer scientist." She is correct. Not every student wants to be a computer scientist. I would say that most students do not want to be a computer scientist. However, that is not why schools are teaching coding. There is so much more to it than that. 

I also agree when she wrote, "I wish that reading, playing music, creating, or anything else that seems to be so often on the chopping block was just as worthy as coding." Yes! I wish all of our students had more time and access to the things they are most passionate about at school. I want more money and time to help all of these students. I don't think it is fair to say we are cutting art for coding. It's not like coding came along and bullied art and took its place in line. I have been an advocate for the arts for many many years because I do know the value of them in our schools. I think there is room for all of them, but we might need to make room for one by cutting back on another. That sounds awful, but coding is important. 

As we move forward in life, certain things have become more complex than ever before. In Metro Detroit, you used to be able to leave high school and sign up with Ford and work the line. You would do that for 40 years and you would retire with a nice pension. Those days are gone. While some can still get a job in the manufacturing world out of high school, more and more of these jobs require more and more training. Are all of them code based? Of course not, but they are heavily tech based. To understand the tech, people need to understand how tech works. Tech works through code. 

While I do not expect all students to become Master Coders after some coding courses, I do think it is important for them to have the experience so they can have an understanding of how almost everything in the world works now. That exposure might lead them to a career in a coding related field, or they might just be able to troubleshoot some minor issues at their home. I liken it to learning a language. 

In Michigan, we require students to take 2 years of a language and recommend 3 for college bound students. Are we really expecting students to become fluent in three years of HS language? Are they going to become language teachers? Of course not, but they will have a better understanding of the language (coding is a language, many different languages) so they can interact a little better when they encounter it outside of school. 

I also do not think it has to be one or the other. Coding can, and should be, woven in to other subject areas. Coding in Art and Music makes so much sense! Learning the code for the various colors to show up on the display and create images using lines of code are completely possible. Adding music you record to that creation or music created without touching an instrument is possible. I'm not suggesting we abandon paints and violins, but there are ways to add in elements of coding to what we already do. 

My son, Leo, is turning 5 next week and he already has some experience with coding. He has been using Scratch for a few months and loves it. Does he understand that it is coding, no, but he is learning about he cause an effect relationship actions by using the Coding Blocks. As he grows up and if he wants, he will take the knowledge and explore more complex forms of coding. It will be his choice, but based on playing with it and seeing if he likes it. Some parents at home might not have the chance or the resources to support their kids in experiencing code and that is why schools need to support it. 

I am trained as a high school English and Social Studies teacher. I have spent the past 6 months learning how to code on the Raspberry Pi and now I'm learning something different as I play with a robot. I am teaching all of this myself because I find it interesting. Once I have a complete, or near complete, understanding of it, I can then think of different ways to merge that into a literature curriculum. Will it be easy? Of course not. I did not become a teacher because it was easy. It was because of the pay...wait...

I know Pernille is not suggesting dumping coding from schools, but I do think it is becoming more and more important that our students have more formalized instruction in coding so they can be prepared for the jobs that do not exist yet that will probably involve technology in a major way. 

What are your thoughts on coding in schools?