Monday, August 4, 2014

Kids (and Grown-ups) Who Code

I worry about a lot of things and just now I'm worrying about the pressure we're putting on teachers, parents, and students about coding. For teachers who don't really know what coding is and are feeling additional pressure to learn about coding and to figure out how to integrate coding in their classes. For parents who are in the same boat with teachers but don't know if they should be pressuring teachers to make sure their kids learn how to code because they don't know what they don't know. For kids who may be pressured to learn how to code right NOW as though it's the last opportunity to do so.

Let me say that I'm not against kids learning how to code. I think it's a great idea, but I also think kids should be exposed to it and then given the opportunity to explore it further. Kids coding seems to be on the verge of an expectation that somehow kids aren't cool or with it or smart enough or something enough if they're not on the coding bandwagon. Deep breaths, people.

I discovered coding after I graduated from college with a degree in English and American Studies. Of course, I'm old and I used card decks and had to write elegant code because memory resources were limited. No gigabytes in those days. I learned how to write overlays and how to manage cache. It was cool. It was a giant and spectacular puzzle to be solved.

I still think coding is cool and a spectacular puzzle to be solved. In my opinion, the way we present coding and the possibilities is what will entice kids. If it becomes a "learn how to code or you'll be destitute and unloved the rest of your life" kind of message, kids will be turned off and not just because they won't understand. It's the pressure to do something to be like everyone else that will make it less interesting.

Minecraft is a huge portal for kids to talk about math (and other stuff) and to learn about coding. It will be until the next new shiny thing attracts the attention of some who will flap their hands and insist with breathless anticipation that this new thing is the thing that will make a difference for kids and their futures.

Coding is couched in terms of "STEM" and "computer science." Kids who aren't included towards STEM or computer science may think that coding isn't for them. But coding is a skill; in fact, I'd say coding is a craft. An article in the Wall Street Journal echoes my thinking about coding and reminds us that majoring in computer science isn't necessary for a talented coder. There are plenty of options and opportunities for someone who enjoys coding and is good at it.

We've crossed some sort of border in human history where everything we touch now has software in it," says Mr. Carson, echoing the common Silicon Valley refrain that the future comprises two types of people—those who know how to program and those who must obey the machines created by those people.
As Christopher Mims of the Wall Street Journal also notes: "As technology becomes ever more widespread, it's creating programming jobs as diverse as the types of knowledge workers it has displaced."

There is, however, a caveat: coding is not for everyone. Folks in the MakerSpace movement and elsewhere want you to think learning to code is a snap. Fundamental "Hello World" coding is easy, but good coding requires good reasoning and logic skills. Good coding requires outstanding problem solving skills and, I think, the ability to imagine a result. Good coding requires patience and the ability to work through dozens of "what if" scenarios to make sure the worst worst-case scenarios have been tested just as well as the best best-case scenarios.

For more information on coding options and possibilities, check out:

No comments:

Post a Comment