5 reasons to get coding

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December 12, 2016

Nearly 50% of U.S. jobs will be automated by 2020.*

Approximately 65% of today’s elementary-age children are likely to work someday in jobs that don’t even exist yet – with about 2 million of those jobs expected to be created in the computer. mathematics and engineering fields.**

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Technology is changing rapidly and changing the world that we live in. Jobs and tasks that a robot or computer can be programmed to do, will be. So how well are we preparing our students to live, and thrive, in this increasingly digital world?

It is imperative that today’s students receive an education that prepares them for this very real and not so distant future. Today’s students will need to be more than just regurgitators of facts and figures. They will need to think critically, solve problems, communicate, design, and create. They will need to learn how to learn if they are going to be prepared to live and work in this digital revolution age– skills that worksheets cannot provide.

We are a long way off. Even with increased access to computer science instruction in U.S. schools in the last few years, still less than half of K-12 schools offer that needed computer science instruction, and there are still mixed feelings about the priority of computer science (CS) education in K-12 schools.*** As an elementary math and technology integration coach, I am passionate about integrating computer science and coding education into elementary classroom instruction.

Why should educators across all grade levels and subjects integrate coding beyond preparing students for a future workforce?

1. Innovating and Inventing: Coding gives students another venue for creating. Students can use tools like Scratch or Dash and Dot robots to present their learning or explain their thinking, and digital creation provides children with another outlet for innovating, inventing, and expressing themselves in a different way.

2. Incorporates all school subjects: Coding requires students to use language arts, math, and science concepts in context; skills including syntax, punctuation, cause/effect, input/output, multiplication, measurement of angles, coordinates, conditionals, electronics, circuitry, and much more.

3. Encourages critical thinking: Learning to code challenges students to think critically, solve problems, and persevere through tough situations. Via partner programming activities, students practice collaboration and communication skills.

4. Engages unengaged students: Teaching computer science and coding is an opportunity to reach students that might otherwise be unengaged in school. Last year, I worked with small groups of elementary age students at one of our Title 1 schools, teaching Scratch and Python as part of a physical computing project with Raspberry Pi. A handful of those students had spent much of the year in the principal’s office, were struggling to get along with peers, and were failing academically. During our coding lessons, however, those students were engaged, excited about learning, and were given an opportunity to become learning leaders in their classroom.

5. It’s fun!: Robots, video games, animations, Minecraft, physical computing, web design – coding can be fun and children should have fun learning.

My hope is that soon, computer science instruction – computational thinking, problem solving, data analysis, algorithms, etc. – will be integrated into daily instruction of core subjects like math, science, and language arts. No matter what students plan for their future careers, the skills acquired from coding are powerful for all learners.

Not sure how to get started bringing computer science education and coding to your classroom? Check back in the PBS Teachers’ Lounge later this week. Look for: Best tips & tools for integrating computer science education into your school. Stay tuned.

* Frey, Carl Benedikt, and Michael A. Osborne. “The future of employment: how susceptible are jobs to computerisation.” Retrieved September 7 (2013): 2013.
** World Economic Forum. “The global challenge insight report: future of jobs.” Retrieved December 1 (2016): 2016.
*** Google Inc. & Gallup Inc. (2016). Trends in the State of Computer Science in U.S. K-12 Schools. Retrieved from http://goo.gl/j291E0


Amanda Haughs
Elementary Math & Technology Integration Coach

After seven years of teaching in grades K-5, Amanda is currently a Math and Technology Integration Coach. She is passionate about providing innovative learning opportunities for students on a daily basis and is enthusiastic about the power of technology in education. Her curriculum planning and delivery is supported by the use of technology as a tool to differentiate instruction and to access student engagement and critical thinking skills.

This article originally appeared in PBS