Computer Coding: A Powerful Learning Tool

On July 12th at 2 p.m. ET, join Education Week Digital Directions Senior Writer Michelle R. Davis for a live chat about introducing computer coding to K-12 students as a way to teach math and higher-order thinking.

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  1. In the cover story of the Spring/Summer issue of Education Week Digital Directions, Michelle reported on the recent push to teach students computer coding skills earlier in their educational careers. The educators profiled in this article believe that students who learn these skills will likely open doors for themselves into highly-prized, well-paid professions because coding teaches the problem-solving, communication, and collaboration skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century.

  2. Computer programmers and software engineers are predicting a scarcity of professionals able to code, and teachers are lauding coding as a way to teach everything from math to higher-order thinking. But there is also a nice benefit for recent graduates—2013 computer science grads can find starting salaries at about $64,800 a year!
  3. However, one student interviewed in the article said he hesitated to take a computer coding class because he pictured "that stereotype of the pasty white guy sitting in front of a laptop." 


    How does the image or stereotype about computer science graduates affect the reach of coding classes and programs? How can we change this image and appeal to more students?

  4. The push to draw students into the programming field also begs the question: 


    What is the best way to present coding to students? What holds their interest while still teaching skills applicable elsewhere? 
  5. One way students are drawn into the computer programming field is through coding for video games. Once they get hooked on the connection to gaming, they then go on to see how coding can be used in many different areas. As one teacher explains, labeling the class work as "digital-game design" rather than "computer coding" has had a significant impact on student engagement in her low-income school.

    "Since the students...are focused on digital-game creation, often they don't even realize they're learning computer coding."

    –Saleta Thomas, teacher, South Hills High School, Fort Worth, Texas
  6. After launching a summer "CoderDojo academy," Albermarle County schools in Virginia expected to have 50 students sign up. Instead, the district had a list of 1,100 students who wanted to participate. 

    So, if you build it, will they come? What techniques did Albermarle County schools use to attract more students?
  7. In Albermarle's version of the program, only students are allowed to touch the computers.

    "We try our best to stay out of the kids' way...We're promoting the idea that they are producers of technology, not just consumers."

    –Vincent Scheivert, Chief Information Officer, Albermarle County schools, Va.
  8. Students who take coding classes also learn broader skills, such as problem-solving and higher-order thinking. 

    What additional skills can students gain from computer coding that will help them succeed in other classes? Can coding classes incorporate cross-curricular activities?
  9. "To make a character [in a video game] go up and down or left or right, you're using the Pythagorean theorem constantly. For most of my students, that is the first time they've used the..theorem outside of looking at triangles on a worksheet.  It opens up why math matters."

    –Michael Craddock, CoderDojo club supervisor and computer science teacher, Monticello High School, Charlottesville, Va.
  10. On July 12th, find out how educators are using computer coding as a learning tool. During Michelle's live chat, you will have the opportunity to ask her questions about several issues, including the:

              o  Push to teach coding earlier in students' school careers
              o  Use of gaming as a way to entice students to learn coding skills
              o  Academic benefits of learning computer programming
              o  And more!
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