Should coding should be a required part of the school curriculum?

Though we work with clients from all over the world, our main Green Ivy office is located right in the heart of the Silicon Valley. (Side note: the Silicon Valley now means so many things, according to this NYMagazine piece on how many Silicon Valley companies are re-locating to San Francisco – I digress). I have been working with schools that are implementing one-to-one iPad and computer programs since inception, and have seen so many changes take place over a short amount of time.

In my latest work in schools, I focus a great deal on the curriculum side of bringing one-to-one programs into the classroom. Though my work centers on organization, time-management and social media management, I read this weekend’s NYTimes article from Matt Richtel entitled “Reading, Writing, Arithmetic and now Coding” with heightened interest, especially since the school in Mill Valley he highlights is fifteen minutes from my home.

So, should coding be a required part of the school curriculum? Code.org, a non-profit founded by Hadi Partovi, is making waves to make it happen by providing curriculum to K-12 teachers around the country. One of the parents interviewed used the fear factor, stating, “Computer science is big right now — in our country, the world,” she said. “If my kids aren’t exposed to things like that, they could miss out on potential opportunities and careers.”

All well and good, and I appreciate the problem solving that happens when a student learning to code, but I am not sure kindergarten is the right age to begin. Too soon, perhaps. This skill is something I see of interest for middle and high school students, particularly those in high school. And while technology skills should be required (after all, using search engines and document storage and retrieval are completely different now than it was even five years ago) we do need to think about the long-term implications of technology and screen overload for our younger kids.

For our youngest learners, we should promote more opportunities that build the same skills as coding without necessarily spending ample time in front of a screen. Those logic skills, if-then reasoning, and cause-effect happenings are invaluable for overall problem solving and critical thinking skills.

In her Motherlode column, When Kids Would Rather Play Computer Games Than Code Them, KJ Dell’Antonia discusses the fact that coding is pretty challenging, and many children have a tough time switching from being consumers (playing video or computer games) to being creators (coding them). It many cases, it takes more effort on the parent to encourage the shift, which may or may not be easy to do.

On a personal note, my mother has her PhD in Computer Science (she got way back before it was the cool thing to do), and I grew up with an Apple IIE and requisite turtle coding games at free range. Some kids enjoy that stuff, others don’t – as with anything. Helping kids find the intersection of what they enjoy and what they have aptitude for, as well as what they can grow aptitude for, is the best any parent can hope. And coding is just another thing to add to the repertoire.

 

The Tech Sector’s New, Urban Aesthetic (NYTimes)

www.code.org

Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Lately, Coding (NYTimes)

When Kids Would Rather Play Computer Games Than Code Them (NYTimes)

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