EdTech Trend: Teaching Students to Code

By Monica Burns 05.20.2014 blog

Computer programming has been around for decades and thanks to online platforms and iPad apps it’s becoming increasing popular in schools across the country. Teachers understand how computer science careers will be in high demand in years to come. Teens who love video games, sketching and problem solving are all good candidates for curriculum and enrichment activities that include coding as part of their focus.

What is coding?

Coding is a type of language that gives computer programs instructions on how to perform a specific function. It’s the basis for how computer operating systems run and why one website looks different from another. Coding can range from simple to complex which makes it great a focus for students of all ages.

How can students learn basic coding skills?

There are a handful of computer programs that can help students understand the basics of computer programming. Some of these are web based and others are available on mobile apps. Scratch is a web tool developed at MIT that gives teens the power to create their own animation with the goal of promoting higher order thinking. It has tons of examples and is free to join. If you are working with high schoolers interested in exploring STEM careers, Code Academy is another website worth checking out. They offer tutorials for students on HTML, jQuery and more.

For students with access to an iPad, there are plenty of fun apps that give teens a chance to play their way through learning how to code. Although some are designed for younger students, teens will definitely be drawn to these bright and colorful games. Whether they are given room to create in Hopscotch or asked to beat different levels in Move the Turtle, each of these apps gives students an introduction to coding. Code Academy also has an iOS app that works on both the iPhone and iPad.

Why are schools including coding in their curriculum or after school programming?

Many school administrators and teachers are finding that students in middle school and high school are increasingly interested in computer science.  Whether they are curious about how to build their own mobile app or just want to combine their creativity with building a product, it’s not hard not grab the attention of teens who demonstrate a slight interest in learning more.  Schools looking to prepare their students for computer science and engineering jobs are exploring ways to integrate coding into their curriculum. Scratch has a portion of its website dedicated to educators to help them find the best ways to integrate coding into their teaching practice.

For schools who are struggling to find time in the school day for this type of learning, there is the option to create after school programming that focuses on these skills. Girls Who Code is one example of an organization who is dedicated to developing clubs and summer programs for students who might not be at a school where coding is part of the curriculum.

Have you tried integrating coding into your curriculum? Share your ideas and experiences below!

Monica Burns is an Education Consultant, EdTech Blogger, and Apple Distinguished Educator. Visit her site ClassTechTips.com for more ideas on how to become a tech-savvy teacher.


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