How can we use those robots to teach math, literacy and 21st century competencies like collaboration and creativity?

February 7, 2018

The key to computer science – and as a result, coding – is thinking.

People express their thoughts in language. So it might help to think about coding as a language. Even though we have language classes, we use languages in all subjects. We teach kids to read so they can learn from others – not so they can become professional readers. We teach kids to write so they can communicate, even though we know only a few will get jobs as writers.

We need to think about teaching kids to code in the same way.

Sure, the Internet of Things means more jobs will require coding. But most students aren’t going to become professional programmers – just like most students don’t become professional writers. That’s OK. They should still learn to code. They should learn to code so they can learn a different way of thinking, communicate their thoughts to others and learn what others think.

If we want to help children think differently – and maybe, better – we need to encourage them to have growth mindsets. That means, we need to encourage them to adapt to change, take risks and learn from their mistakes without thinking they’re failures because they made a mistake. They need to learn to communicate and collaborate in order to be successful in life.

Providing students with open ended opportunities to think critically creates problem solvers and independence, both of which are required skills for today’s industry. Experts have branded a set of skills as “21 Century Competencies” which include computational thinking. Coding also supports spatial sense and makes students think about possible scenarios. Regardless of their chosen profession, thinking critically provides students with a variety of perspectives.

Great chess players can visualize multiple outcomes and react accordingly to different moves from their opponent.

Excellent point guards are able to view possible situations on the basketball court in a matter of seconds. Professional choreographers think in repeating patterns and can visualize a team of dancers through a wide lens.

So why should students be coding in schools? Well, that depends on the goal or task. If you want to create a community of risk-takers, problem solvers and independent thinkers, give coding a shot. Tinkering, making, remixing and disassembling old technology also provide students opportunities to think computationally. Computer Science education is much larger than just coding. Ultimately, don’t we want students to decide for themselves what their future profession will be? You don’t know if you like broccoli until you try it.

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