by Matt Harris
Expert Educator Columnist, Singapore
I must confess: I am a coder. I like to create and build through computer programming. I find it engages a special part of my brain and calms me when I need a break of administrative or educational work. In fact, I used to code for Microsoft. I also teach coding and I love that coding teaches them to grow as analytical thinkers and problem solvers. In short, I am a big proponent for learning how to code.
What has struck most of late is just how universal coding has become as a connector of people. When I first played around with the topic for this post, I considered titling it as, “Coding is a Universal Language,” but a set of colleagues corrected me. Coding does not follow the rules of common languages; it exceeds them. Coding ties people together from all backgrounds and ages with the universal concepts of planning, creativity, design, and development. It is both constructive and destructive, fueling collaboration in some and isolation in others.
What I challenge readers to think about is finding any part of modern society that is not touched in some way by coding? Think of any social or political event of the past 25 years that didn’t have some connection to coding. Think of one nation of people on earth that haven’t been influenced in some way by coding. I am sure you can find some, but those outliers are vastly overwhelmed by the examples of coding being tied to the central fabric of contemporary digital society.
If you believe this as I do, then you likely believe that coding should be a central part of our education systems, like mathematics, science, the arts, or languages. If coding is central part of what we do, how we do it, and who we are, isn’t it incumbent on educators to teach coding to our students?
- …teaches logical thought and creative problem solving
- …provides insight into our communication and information tools
- …teaches design and systems thinking
- …unifies content areas
- …can connect people locally and globally
- …can be a avocation or even a vocation
So shouldn’t you be teaching it?
From a global perspective, we are seeing schools and Ministries of Education embracing coding in their curriculum. Take a look at the new Australian curriculum or those found in China or India. The maker movement, which emphasizes problem solving and creative thought, uses coding as one of its core tools for design and creation. International schools have begun to add coding and computational thinking to their syllabi at all levels. And interestingly, coding is not something reserved for secondary classes as schools are finding ways to include it in the early years and primary school.
Yet, a lot of us work in schools or organizations that are not ready to make the commitment towards coding as a central curricular element. In that case, what can you do?
- Start a coding club
- Hold after school or weekend coding seminars
- Plan a hackathon
- Look deeply into online resources such as Microsoft Virtual Academy
- Tie into maker efforts in your region or start a maker faire of your own
- Connect with other coders through local and social networks
- Follow coding hashtags
- Find the students and teachers in your community interested in coding
- Be creative, highlight success, promote and be proud, and aim to create meaningful and engaging experiences for all
- Use it as a connector of people…coding is really good at that.