To Code or Not to Code?


This cool infographic provides a persuasive list of rationale for upping the amount of time we devote in our schools today to computer programming/coding. In the third grade Math and Science classroom that I teach in, absolutely no time in the school day is spent on learning computer programming, let alone many basic computer skills (even something as simple as typing). I would guess that students would have no idea what I meant by the term “coding” if I were to bring it up to them. It seems a bit strange, as I reflect back to my own elementary school education–way back in the age when internet was just beginning and computers were only in the homes of some of my middle and upper class classmates–that I remember a fairly substantial amount of time devoted in the curriculum to learning not only basic computer skills such as typing, but also creating our own websites using all the HTML commands. So is this something we should be pushing for more of in our schools? If you just type “coding” into a google search, you will be greeted by a plethora of parenting articles and ads for free programming sites that command the answer, “YES.”

However, there are some dissenters. I read a fascinating article in the Washington Post entitled, “All Students Should Learn to Code. Right? Not So Fast.” In this article, Educational Historian, Larry Cuban, argues that this coding trend was something which was attempted in the 1980’s–and because it failed then, it will also fail today. Cuban writes:

“In a related post I pointed out the gradual disappearance of cursive writing from the elementary school curriculum as an instance of reformers abandoning a traditional subject because they see schools as engines of  economic, societal, and political change in the nation. They do not see schools as “museums of virtue” where cursive writing would be taught to every second and third grader. Instead, these reformers advocate  that young children and youth be taught programming languages as tools for computational thinking, a 21st century skill is there ever was one. I used the example of Logo, an innovation introduced into schools in the early 1980’s as an earlier instance of school reformers as “true believers” in teaching coding to children. They wanted to alter traditional teaching and learning. That innovation flashed across the sky like a shooting star and within a decade, had nearly vanished.

Now, the “true believers” are back. Even though the context and rationale for having K-12 students learn to code differs from then and now, the outcomes will be the same.”

It will be interesting to follow this trend and see if the outcome is as Cuban predicts, or whether computer programming will truly become an integral part of today’s math and science curriculum.



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