It wasn’t just the guffaw made by our Prime Minister in his response to a question posed by the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament about the need to make coding compulsory for all children which made me think about coding this week. Rather, it was that in the space of just a couple of days, I came across a number of different articles about coding. My interest in this subject has been piqued, yet again.
Despite the unfortunate words of Tony Abbott, it is apparent, as described in a Sydney Morning Herald article that, while there is presently no intention to make coding a compulsory subject for all children, funding to at least introduce coding into our schools already has the backing of the present Australian Government.
An article in Educational Technology Solutions by Sarah Boyd: Getting girls into coding talks about the importance of exposing girls to coding and providing them an opportunity to input into designing and building the software they use. Boyd’s words echo those I blogged a few months ago Coding: the new trend or the new essential? The video I included in this post: Is Code the most important language in the world? highlights the fact that a non diverse workforce, which does not really understand the end user experience, is responsible for building software. Questions, such as ‘who’s going to use it?’ ‘what are they going to do with it?’ and ‘how are they going to live with it?’ are not being addressed as production and development continue. Boyd offers many practical solutions on how coding classes for girls can be initiated and run in schools.
Moving beyond the fact that those building and designing software are not fairly or equally representative of those using the end products, the challenge facing educators in the 21st century is clearly that of preparing students for the workforce of the future. For the last 15 years or more, the catch cry heard in education has been that our students will be entering jobs that presently do not exist. As a society, we have been slow to recognize that today’s graduates will hold a number of different jobs in a range of diverse professions throughout their working lives. Well gone are the days which emphasized that school and university graduates would hold the one job in the one profession for life.
The role of educators is to nurture students and provide opportunities for learning to occur. By providing a scaffolding, educators provide students with a set of skills by which they can independently grow and learn. I’ve blogged about this important set of skills before: Developing students as lifelong learners: 10 essential skills
….. lifelong learning is more about developing a set of skills by which an individual can pursue knowledge. Learning these skills in an educational setting, be it school or university is what it’s really all about. Teaching students how to learn should be the gift that educators aim to impart.”
Education curriculum has always held basic “core subjects” as essential for the school program. The three “Rs” – reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic have been the basis of education for time immemorial. Time has shifted though. Our digital world demands a change in not just how we teach, but what we teach. To adequately prepare students for the future, an addition to “core subjects” needs to be made!
Coding is now an essential skill that should be introduced into our schools.”
Developing a basic skill set which can enhance understanding and perpetuate learning is important. A well rounded education needs to include ‘ core subjects’ which reflect the world in which we will live, participate and to which we contribute. By including coding as one of these ‘core subjects’ does not imply that they will become professional computer programmers. Instead, the inclusion of coding among ‘core subjects’ taught implies an ability to read, write and process basic mathematical computations upon completion of schooling, along with an enhanced understanding of our digital world.
Developing a basic skill set which can be applied in one setting, then refined, developed and expanded to meet the needs of a new setting should be an essential product of schooling. Being able to transfer, or rather knowing how to transfer this skill set from one employment setting to another is a proficiency increasingly needed.
Arguing for the inclusion of coding into school curriculum has recently hit the pages of our newspapers. Educational conferences along with educational journal articles have, for some years, been grappling with the importance of including coding in our school programs. A considered opinion on the topic was recently included in the respected online edition of The Conversation by Leon Sterling: An education for the 21st century means teaching coding in schools.
In an effort to bring authenticity to the learning of coding by kids in schools, an exciting new organization has been established.
Code the Future aims to connect educators with developers in industry and is committed to advancing coding and computer science education in schools. An informative blog written by one of its founders, Bec Spink – @BecSpink – highlights new initiatives.
We provide a platform where educators can post code-related projects, request a custom project or pick from our growing base of pre-defined projects. Developers can browse projects in their local area and connect with the educators to take discussions further and bring authentic learning opportunities to the classroom.”
A video posted on their webpage inspires an answer to the question: Why should schools teach kids how to code?