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Warren on Students and Coding (Part 2): Do We All Need to Code?

Submitted by Sam at SMART on February 12, 2014 – 3:57 pm7 Comments

Warren Barkley is SMART’s Chief Technology Officer. Get better acquainted with the man leading our technology vision. This is part two of a series Warren is inspired to do on the topic of learning to code.

I took French in high school. We all had to have that high school language credit to get into university. It should have been a ‘given’ for me because I grew up in Ottawa – a city known as a hotbed of the “all Canadians must speak French” language movement that was going on in Canada at the time.

My teacher was German and poor guy could not speak French all that well. I spoke my own version of ‘kid French’ which had a liberal smattering of words that students gravitate to like ‘bum’ and ‘fart.’ I couldn’t really read the French language that well and I barely passed the class. The German teacher was not a good substitute for someone with expertise in the language and it turns out languages are not my passion or talent either.

If you made it this far, you are probably asking, “What on Earth does this story have to do with coding?”

Well, a couple of things. If we want to mandate coding in schools we need great, trained and well-supported teachers as well as kids who are curious about it. I would say we have work to do on both sides if we are serious about successfully integrating coding into the curriculum.

I personally believe that coding, music and language are all well… different languages. Each language has the ability to stretch a learner’s mind into thinking and operating in new, deeper, and more interesting ways – that’s really the point, isn’t it? We want to push kids into being able to think in new ways and build skills that activities like Minecraft and texting don’t provide. The lack of mandatory language instruction (with a big L), music and coding in schools is a deficit in the curriculum we currently offer young learners. If we can just require students to take at least one of these types of ‘languages,’ it will get them thinking in new ways.

Wouldn’t that be awesome?

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7 comments on “Warren on Students and Coding (Part 2): Do We All Need to Code?

  1. Shannon Vander Meulen on said:

    Interesting food for thought here and very timely because I”ve been exploring possibilities for my 10 year old son.

    I did an Arts degree at University and my father registered me for my first semester classes. It was a complex phone registration system – I asked for help and he took it upon himself to make some of the selections himself. One of his selections was an Intro to Computer Programming. He was an Engineer and had had to take a first year English class, so I guess he figured that English majors should be subjected to a similar sort of torture. It was an incredibly difficult course for me because my mind just didn”t work that way, but it stretched me in a way that no other course did and gave me a great appreciation for what goes on behind each keystroke or mouse click that I do every day.

    Anyway, I really agree with Warren”s comment about coding being another language. The idea of studying a second (or third) language in school isn”t necessarily to become fluent, but to open the mind to a new way of thinking. For some kids, introducing them to coding may ignite a spark that will illuminate for them at a critical time possibilities they didn”t know existed. For others (like me), it may just make them grateful that they can use a computer without having to to type >> every five seconds. :)

  2. Linda Jansen on said:

    Very interesting. In South Africa we have 9 languages! Coding will help a lot.

  3. Giovanna on said:

    I agree about different languages and differently talented people!
    But try to work on more languages open the minds and qualified teachers will be recommended!

  4. David Maneth on said:

    I am using MinecraftEdu as an afterschool math enrichment tool for my 6 to 8 grade students along with my electricity class. It is amazing how much this program will let student expand their understanding of concepts.

  5. Sam at SMART on said:

    Thanks for your enthusiastic responses, everyone! (And hello Shannon!)

    To continue connecting with Warren, remember to follow him on Twitter: @warrenbarkley.

    Sam at SMART

  6. Jeannette on said:

    I remember sitting at my yellowish-beige computer in high-school and making a stick man out of letters. Then I made him “run”…I thought I had invented fire! It”s amazing to think how far we”ve come since then!

  7. David Holmgren on said:

    This reminds me of APL, and its successor J, which has concepts such as verbs, nouns, and adjectives. It makes for very compact and expressive code.

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