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Why learn coding? Who should teach him? How do teachers start? Get tips on how to enter coding in the classroom.
What is coding? Why learn coding? Is coding relevant for non-STEM topics? At what age can students learn coding? What do students need to know before taking coding? How do I start teaching coding? What are the best sources for teaching coding?
Computer Programs For Students
An Hour Of Code, A Lifetime Of Skills
Coding is usually done as a critical step in the larger computer programming process. Computer programming involves identifying a problem or challenge, considering possible solutions, writing code that can implement those solutions, and then reviewing and modifying the code to get the results you want.
Computer programs, also known as “applications,” can generally run on machines and devices, including computers, laptops, tablets, game consoles, and more. These include everything from operating systems like iOS, Windows or Android to powerful applications like Office or Photoshop, web-based programs like Netflix or Instagram, and games like Minecraft or Candy Crush. Everything a computer or device does is through a program.
Code Conquest, which provides a free coding guide for beginners, has a useful history and a summary of the most common programming languages. For starters, there are several programs that allow users to use blocks or visuals and switch back and forth between blocks and the programming language.
This special command, “Print,” tells the computer to display the following text – in this case, “Welcome to my program!” This command does not include any of the variables commonly used in coding. Variables are placeholders that tell a computer what to do based on a user’s specific activity, such as a keystroke or a click.
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Coding is not just for kids who want to work on “technicians” or computers. There are many compelling reasons for all students to learn the code.
First, it teaches students how to become digital creators – to create their own websites, applications and programs. Coding allows students to use the full power of the Internet – multimedia – to share their ideas, skills and creativity with the world.
“Most people don’t grow up to be computer scientists or professional programmers, but to think positively, to reason systematically, to collaborate … these are things that people can use in their careers, no matter what.
Coding also gives students the skills to apply in content areas. By learning to tell machines what to do, students engage in problem solving and computational thinking, which applies to all academic and professional disciplines. As Mitch Resnick, a computer scientist at MIT, explains, “Most people don’t grow up to be professional computer scientists or programmers, but they think positively, reason systematically, and collaborate … doing their job in life.”
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Learning the code clearly teaches students how the technology they use every day works. Students will be able to better understand which applications are actually coded and some of the major implications of their use.
For example, consider the most used platforms, such as Instagram or Amazon. These platforms use algorithms that are coded formulas and are designed to make the most of the platform for users. Knowing that these platforms are coded in this way helps students understand the great consequences of their use: the platform can collect more and more data, and the platform is more likely to be used artificially than unhealthy.
Coding is fun and gives students a creative outlet and a breakthrough when they start pursuing a career and other career goals.
Yes! Because code learning involves logic, problem solving, reverse planning, and other widely applicable thinking skills, teachers in all disciplines may consider coding to be part of their field of content. In fact, students can use coding projects to demonstrate knowledge in any subject. In language arts, for example, you can add a new challenging and creative dimension to a literary unit by creating code programs that allow users to interact with letters. Alternatively, students can expand the plot of a novel by choosing their own adventure story.
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Coding projects not only enhance specific areas such as English, science or art, but also provide excellent opportunities for interdisciplinary and project-based learning. For more ideas on interdisciplinary coding projects, see “5 Ways to Codify Your Students Throughout the Curriculum” from Kids Discover.
Due to the technical expertise involved, some teachers may feel embarrassed or may not feel qualified to teach a coding class. Untrue! As with any subject, coding requires certain skills, but there are plenty of ways to learn the basics faster and be two steps ahead of your students. Check out this video and tips sheet for some helpful ideas. Code.org has a complete suite of courses designed specifically for teachers who want to teach coding. In addition, the coding of Eduopia’s classroom article provides some guidance.
Coding instructions can start at the age of 5. For example, Code.org has a full range of courses for grades K-5. Many also point to the findings of child development experts in learning a new language: children between the ages of 2 and 7 are important for fluency. Learning the code is like mastering a foreign language – your brain learns new vocabulary and syntax and integrates them into creative expression.
For young students, there will certainly be misunderstandings and challenges when it starts. Young people learn differently from the elderly and are often less immune. But these failures are really important steps, because coding, at any level, always involves a certain level of failure, learning why and how a code fails and how to improve it. Facing these challenges from the beginning, children understand that failure is part of the coding process.
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Short answer, nothing. No formal preconditions or special skills are required before children begin. However, coding challenges students to use their existing knowledge and skills in a variety of areas:
Your initial steps will depend on your situation. You will need to plan the course logistics, prepare to teach the course, do a program, or all three. Below are some basic things to consider, regardless of your situation.
As with any new discipline or class, it is helpful at first to limit the number of students in the class to a controllable size. If possible, it is best to start with students who have chosen to be there or are interested in computers and coding.
Classroom demos are a great way to generate interest for students. You can also introduce Code.org’s Hour of Code program to students so that other students and schools around the world can see how they challenge each other to be creative and innovative. One teacher described it as “a code hour for a lifetime of knowledge.”
Teachers’ Essential Guide To Coding In The Classroom
It is also good to target students from backgrounds who are not traditionally represented in computer science and technology. Check out KQED’s Mindshift for “Getting Started and Building a Complete Computer Program” and these three diversity programs: Girls Who Code, Coding Girls, and Black Girls Code.
Finally, if the class can be part of a normal school day – and grade – it is ideal because students will have an academic mindset in the classroom.
The class does not have specific minutes or weeks. Coding is practically a creative endeavor, so once students have learned the basics, they can cope with increasingly complex challenges while respecting their crafts. That is, students need sessions of at least 30 minutes. The course should include at least five sessions.
If your school or district already has an agreement with Microsoft’s Mac Code, Apple’s Swift Playgrounds, or Google’s CS First – you’re sure to start. However, those programs start in the third grade or later, so you need to look elsewhere for younger students.
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For starters, apps that use blocks are more accessible than coding language. Our list of the best apps and websites to learn programming and coding has many well-evaluated options to help students get started. If you want to start teaching a specific coding language, you may want to choose one that is general and accessible, such as Python, Java, or Ruby. Check out these blog posts from CoderZ and Self-Taught for more
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