Week Six: What Are the Compelling Arguments Both For and Against Computer Coding in Schools?

There are arguments against coding in schools?  This was my initial reaction to this weeks essential question?  Why would anyone have a problem with students learning a valuable skill?  That is beyond me. So it was with some relief that I read the article “Should We Really Try to Teach Everyone to Code?” by Gottfried Sehringer. His questions were more about what is the benefit to teaching coding and is there a better way to get results than arbitrarily teach everyone to code. Gottfried suggests the we, “Teach them how technology works, so they can understand the realm of possibility and then envision game-changing innovations.” (Sehringer., 2016)  He thinks coming up with game changing ideas is more important than learning to code.  He thinks creating apps or programming should be so easy that it becomes a drag and drop activity so no one really needs to code.

Jeff Atwood takes this even farther in his article, “Learning Coding is Over Rated.” He sees coding as a low level skill that takes students back in time instead of forward.  To him, it is like learning how to repair a car.  It is a good skill to have, but not going to be useful for most people in their lives.  As he states, “One of the great achievements of modern computing is that we no longer need to be programmers to create, build and get things done with the amazing supercomputers that everyone carries around in their pockets.”  What I think he means is that having everyone learn to code is a lot of hype that really won’t give students a step up..

Unfortunately, I must agree with Jeff and Gottfried that everyone doesn’t need to learn to code and this shouldn’t be treated like a new core subject.  I do think it is useful and some students would benefit by learning how to code.  So the questions becomes, what are the reason we should teach students to code?

In Mark  Engelberg’s article, “3 Reasons Coding Should Be a Core Subject” he state the following reasons that coding is important:

  1. Programming is a skill that has value across disciplines
  2. Programming is a great way to teach problem solving and higher level thinking skills
  3. Careers in programming are abundant and pay well

Mark even has some good responses to excuses as to why we shouldn’t code.  They include:

  1. Coding doesn’t need to be taught as a stand alone subject. It can be integrated into science and math.
  2. Coding is no longer expensive.  There are lots of free or cheap resources on the web that can help teach coding.
  3. You can use offline puzzles and logic games to help teach coding.

To wrap up, coding is an important skill that some students will benefit from and there is no major reason not to teach coding to most students besides competing for time with other subjects.  Unfortunately, I didn’t read any compelling reason that we should teach coding to every student.

References 

Atwood, J.  Learning to code is overrated: An accomplished programmer would rather his kids learn to read and reason. Daily News. Retreived on 6-21-16 at 2:15 pm.  Found at http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/jeff-atwood-learning-code-overrated-article-1.2374772.

Engelberg, M. 3 reasons coding should be a core subject.  Retrieved on 6-21-16 at 2:27.  Found at http://gettingsmart.com/2015/09/3-reasons-coding-should-be-a-core-subject/.

Sehringer, G. Should we really try to teach everyone to code? Mendix. Retrieved on 6-21-16 at 2:05.  Found at http://www.wired.com/insights/2015/02/should-we-really-try-to-teach-everyone-to-code/ .

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By waclawskid

4 comments on “Week Six: What Are the Compelling Arguments Both For and Against Computer Coding in Schools?

  1. Thank you for your honesty in your reasons against coding in schools, I had not considered those reasons. They point to the big picture of the technology we carry around, and that we don’t need to understand it. It seems, though, that the information on jobs is pointing more and more to proof that we do need to be able to work with this kind of data. For example: mechanics have to understand computer programing of the cars they are working with more than ever now.

    • I understand where you are coming from with computers invading every part of our lives. I actually see things getting easier when it comes to coding. For instance, mechanics don’t need to know programming, they needs to know how to plug it into the computer and run the software. While this is more complex then some jobs, it is still not coding. Programming will still be very important and we will more programmers in the future, but I think we are getting a head of ourselves to say everyone needs to learn programming.

  2. You’re right there are compelling reasons to teach coding in schools. I wondered about students getting an introduction to coding in the elementary grades then having the choice over whether to pursue it in more detail in the upper grades. That being said, I do really like Gottfried’s suggestion, “Teach them how technology works. . .” To me this is the bottom line-if our students understand how technology works, they will have a whole new realm of possibilities. However, I was thinking coding helped with that? Does learning to code help to understand computers more? or is Gottfried’s suggestion that coding is just a small part of that understanding. .. .or am I way off base here?!?

  3. I agree that coding shouldn’t be a core subject, but it should be integrated into other core areas. I don’t see myself teaching coding daily, but I do see myself teaching the skill to align with one of the standards.

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