Archives For December 3, 2016

Computer Science Education Week is December 5th-9th. Classrooms across Ontario, throughout Canada and around the world will be diving into Hour of Code activities. As we do this, I would like to ask a couple of questions:

1) Should students learn to code? 

2) Should teachers teach coding?

3) Is coding in the curriculum?

1) Should students learn to code?

What would your students say if asked?  Members of my coding club share their thoughts in the video below (their answers may surprise you):

2) Should teachers teach coding?

Yes: We should use coding as a teaching tool if we think that it is the most powerful and efficient tool to teach a concept.  John Hattie says that almost every single intervention and tool in education can be found to be effective. He encourages us to “Ask not what works, but what works best.” Listen to John Hattie’s keynote from the Education On Air event held on Friday, December 2nd 2016 (watch from 19:23-19:50) to hear these very words and other related ideas:

No: We should not be using coding as a teaching tool if there are other more effective ways to teach the curriculum expectations.

Yes: We should teach coding because it is an opportunity to develop computational thinking. Computational thinking is modern problem solving.  George Polya’s four step problem solving method was introduced in 1945. Remember these four steps:

  • Understand the Problem
  • Make a Plan
  • Carry out the Plan
  • Look Back

This method for problem solving has been effective for teaching math for a long time, but will it be an effective model of problem solving for the future? The problem solving skills and habits of mind listed below are more fruitful for the current world we live in and the types of problems our students may face now and in the future:

computational-thinking

 

Yes: By 2020, there will be over 200,000 unfilled jobs in Information Technology says ICTC.  50% of those jobs will be indirectly or directly related to app development.  If one of the roles of education is to prepare our students for employment, then we should be giving all students opportunities to learn to code since students are likely to get work where they are either coding or working with a developer/programmer.  It is up to us to ensure that all students, including ones in my video above, to understand that learning to code is relevant to their lives.

3) Is Coding in the curriculum?

The short factual answer is no.

If you look more creatively at the curriculum the answer might be yes.

If you search the Ontario curriculum documents or the Achieving Excellent document, you will not find any explicit mention of coding or computational thinking.

untitled-drawing-1

The only place I found anything close was a reference to computational strategies, which is not the same as computational thinking.

However, teachers can use coding as a tool to teach the curriculum, just like you might use a chocolate sundae making activity to engage students and teach about procedural writing or you would use a ruler when working on measurement.

According to people like Dr. Julie Mueller, coding and computational thinking is “hiding in plain sight” in the curriculum. This is a perspective that was presented by Dr. Mueller and her research collaborator at a session in August 2016. The same thinking and problem solving that is foundational to science, math, inquiry in social studies is also foundational to computational thinking. Also, some have found that there are many expectations in many documents, such a math, that can be explicitly taught with and through coding.  See for example Integrating  Coding into the Elementary Curriculum by Lisa Floyd, secondary school teacher.

And, while coding is not in the curriculum, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has written an open letter to the minister of Education Mitzie Hunter encouraging educators to dip a toe, ever so gently, into computer coding:

kathleen-wynne quote about coding