Coding the Classroom

HTML code over top of 0's and 1'sCurrently, a large part of the world is shifting towards a knowledge based economy, where technology and computer coding skills reign supreme.  Will your students be prepared to enter this new economy?  This shift is dynamic and the pace of change is unbelievably fast.  To succeed in the knowledge economy, your students need skills like coding and programming to be second nature.  So what do students do when these skills aren’t being taught in the classroom?

First of all, young people are taking learning into their own hands.  Using books and web-based resources, these kids are excelling in the production of websites, apps, and programs.  It comes easy to them, and this might scary for you, their teacher. For example, Thomas Suarez who is just reaching his early teens already has his own company and two iPhone apps for sale.

Teachers be assured, there is no need to be scared.

New technologies and the massive amounts of freely available information on the web are causing a leveling of the playing field between teachers and students.  This is an opportunity to collaborate with your students and learn as much from them as they can learn from you.  In my experience students become more engaged when they have the chance to use technology.  Give them the opportunity to use technology to access the learning material and you will see for yourself.  Most new technologies are very user friendly, and your students are already pros, so all you need to do is find which option is best for your learning outcomes and let the students have at it.

Now that we’re okay using technology in the classroom, what about teaching the foundations of all this technology: code.

The home page video on Code.org shows some of the famous faces behind the knowledge economy.  Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerburg, Chris Bosh (he learned to code in college), the founders of Twitter and Dropbox all make appearances, amongst many other coding whizzes.  Their main message is that computer coding is a skill everyone should learn, especially young people growing up in a world where coding languages drive the knowledge economy.

Code.org provides a solid case for why learning code is critical for success in today’s world.  Some form of computer code is present in nearly all aspects of our daily lives.  It only makes sense that we should know something about it, at least at a basic level.  I mention that there are already young people teaching themselves how to code outside of classroom hours, but what about the students that don’t take that initiative?  To increase digital literacy amongst all students, coding needs to be a part of school curriculum.

Using myself as an example, I have never thought of myself as technologically apt.  That is until I took a web design course.  This course equipped me with basic HTML and CSS coding skills.  With these skills I also felt more confident to learn about new technology and not feel as if it was going over my head.  Now I love the process of writing and troubleshooting code until you achieve the product you want.  It is a passion I wish I had discovered earlier in life.  This is why I feel so strongly about having digital literacy programs in school curriculum.

The school system is notorious for lagging behind “real world” educational requirements, so I don’t expect kids will be learning the foundations of coding in Grade 3 anytime soon.  But maybe I am wrong.  In the meantime, students can go to websites like code.org to find places on the web where they can learn code.  Teachers, parents, and mentors can help by facilitating coding clubs and workshops, and starting to use digital technologies in the classroom.

Thomas Suarez works with a teacher at his school to share his knowledge about programming apps with his peers.  AIGA/NY, a professional design association in New York, hosts free digital design workshops for teens.  Gaps in the school system are being filled from the outside, giving young people the skills they want to learn and will need to succeed in a knowledge economy.  I can’t even begin to imagine all of the amazing innovations we will see once these skills are incorporated into school curriculum.

Do you use digital technologies in your classroom? Does your school teach students computer coding skills? If you don’t have these types of things at your school, what’s preventing this? Please comment if you have any feedback, and to share your own experiences.

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