Teaching Kids to Code

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Sharing the Why with Future Programmers

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Photo by Chris Ried on Unsplash

What if there was a way to teach Kids need to learn to read and write code. Steve Jobs has been quoted saying, “Everybody in this country should learn to program a computer because it teaches you how to think”. Opportunities to practice thinking might not seem like a big deal, but I would argue that the typical school day and job does not always allow for pure thinking to take place.

Thinking requires that we spend time developing the questions that inspire research and exploration.

The Challenge

What does it mean to code, and why is it necessary for my students to be exposed to it? 

How can I introduce middle school students to a world that I can hardly keep up with?  How do I tap into the natural curiosity of students? What is the best way to get started? How do I keep finding resources that will engage my learners who are at a variety of abilities? How can I teach students that coding is about big issues and solving world problems? What are the most useful methods for teaching today’s coders?

What Works

My enthusiasm matters.

I have found that if I am energized about a topic, it is much easier for students to get excited about their learning. One of the best things I have done is to show the video that code.org made for the National Week of Coding a few years ago. It gets kids wondering. It taps into curiosity. I have noticed that when I watch it, I get excited all over again. It has a way of making the viewer think that coding is achievable and something that he or she would want to do.

What Most Schools Don’t Teach

In essence, the challenge is to find a way to tap into. It only the interest and passion level of a student, but to peak his or her curiosity so much so that experimenting by writing lines of code becomes something that is just done.

Start with A Question

I am currently reading a book that begs the question, “What is your Everest?

Dave Stuart, the author of These 6 Things, suggests that our “Everest” is what we want to accomplish. It is similar to a mission statement. It is a singular purpose to make so specific so that we can tell if we have lost our way. When the “Everest” is identified, we work backward and determine the steps to get there. When I think about “My Everest” in regards to introducing students to the world of computer science, I am overwhelmed with so many thoughts. I like that Stuart suggests we write out an initial draft of what our Everest is and then revise it. I decided to start with a question to frame the direction I move in towards answering this question.

What is my role as an educator in a field that is constantly changing? What are the universal skills that I can pass along that will any generation at any decade?

I am only beginning to formulate what “Everest” looks like in the computer science portion of my classroom. I have challenged myself to define this by Friday.

Remind them that they are in Control

When I think about the story that I am asking kids to tell with lines of computer code, I realize that it is important for me to deliver the message of how much power they have. Middle school aged students in particular, crave the ability to make decisions and be in control.

Coding provides an opportunity for ownership and control.

It is my mission to remind students that they are authors and get to choose the story to be told. Programming might be the answer to meeting one of the students’ greatest needs.

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