Coding: A New Literacy

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In class this week, we practiced coding (for my first time!) We used the program called Logo Interpreter and followed a workbook called Programming in Logo. This was my first experience using computer language and instructing the program to do what I wanted using code. This helped me to understand a bit about how programs complete tasks and how I was able to manipulate the code to meet a certain objective. I was also able to make many connections between coding and the SK math curriculum.

Adding to last week’s discussion about learning theories, Seymour Papert coined the term constructionism which is a learning theory rooted in constructionism where the learner makes meaning of information based on their experience with it but further (in constructionism), the learner is “most effective when part of an activity the learner experiences as constructing a meaningful product” (source).  Papert used Logo in his early research which was designed to teach young children about computer programming.

In his 2015 article “Why Kids Should Learn to Code“, Erik Missio explains that coding is being considered a new literacy and that learning to code is directly related to many future job opportunities. (Hint: scroll to the bottom of this article if you’re not sure where to start with coding. There are some great applications to start with! Or checkout this article) Missio argues,

Today, computing is involved in almost all aspects of our lives, from communications and education to social media, banking, information, security and shopping. Networked computers are capable of controlling our homes’ thermostats and lighting, our cars and our health records.

If grade-schoolers are taught biology and mathematics in order to understand the world around them, then knowing the basics of how computers communicate—and how to engage with them—should be a given.

Not only does learning to code help kids explain the world, it also helps them develop problem solving and computational thinking skills (Missio) both of which are listed as Future 2020 Work Skills. This 2012 article “Code Literacy: A 21st Century Requirement” by Douglas Rushkoff explains that kids “are spending an increasing amount of their time in digital environments where the rules have been written by others. Just being familiar with how code works would help them navigate this terrain, understand its limitations and determine whether those limits are there because the technology demands it — or simply because some company wants it that way. Code literate kids stop accepting the applications and websites they use at face value, and begin to engage critically and purposefully with  them instead”.

If you’re not yet convinced, this article, 9 Reasons Why Kids & Teens Should Learn to Code, sums it up nicely:

Finally, check out what some of these leaders and trend-setters have to say about the importance of learning to code in this article.

As you can see, there are many reasons that learning to code is important for young people today. Because technology is impacting nearly every aspect of our lives, it is increasingly important to understand how the programs being used work. In addition, coding can be used to help young people develop new programs and apply what they have learned in creative ways.

There are already many ways in which learning to code can be relevant in the context of the Saskatchewan curriculum. Do you teach coding in your classroom? If so, what programs do you use? What benefits are you seeing? What have your students surprised you with?

 

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