I’m referring to computer programming, not creating complex unsolvable codes (which are cool in their own right). Teaching IT, I get asked a version of this question quit often. Why do we need to learn to do this; Why are we learning to program; How come I have to learn to program, I don’t want to be a programmer. Occasionally I answer, because it is what your being taught, but that is only after they have asked far too many times, and never once listened to my answer.
The truth is, I teach coding, because I believe it is an important to learn. Not as important as basic literacy and numeracy, but nipping at their educational heals. I believe this for a number of reasons. First, it develops problem solving skills and complex thinking skills. Secondly, it pushes students understanding of how the world works into new places. Thirdly, it is 21st century skill that is becoming more important every day. Fourthly, it is engaging and allows students to be creative in ways that are unique as they are. Finally, I personally think it is fun and enjoy teaching it.
Those 5 reasons are my answer to “why code? ”. I can expand on them, but I’m not going to. I think they are pretty easy to understand. Instead I’m going to share something with you that happened to me this week.
Three of my Year 7 classes are working on a project in Scratch. They have finished the basic tutorials, and before being set free to their own ideas, they are making a game that I have specified. The game they are making is a simple racing car game; a car goes around the track. It has to be able to turn, accelerate and stop based on a player controls. Pretty simple, everything they need to do is within the tutorials found in Scratch itself (thank you MIT!). Students were progressing along quietly, when suddenly someone called out, “how do I get it to turn smoothly?”.
The reaction of the class was amazing. Everyone, started talking to everyone else. They moved around the room. Everyone was working with everyone. Small groups formed, then broke up and reformed with new members. It was true open and honest collaboration and teamwork. There was no negativity. It was all positive. I was speechless as I watched it happen. I know this sounds like an exaggeration, but it is how it happened. Watching Year 7 solve the problem of how to make a car turn smoothly has been the highlight of my week, maybe my year. I watch a class transform before my eyes. The different solutions that they came up with were remarkable.
In the end, they figured out about 4 different ways to do it. Some of them are still working on alternatives methods too. The collaboration and sharing was electric. It was a good week to be a teacher. I got to experience one of “those” moments that validate everything you have worked for.
For me, it was the embodiment why code and that is why I believe we should be teahcing it. Also it is now part of the curriculum here in Victoria, but I just think of that as a win, not as reason, since I would be teaching coding anyway without it.