What is “coding” and why is it an important skill for students today?

Michelle Cowell,  AEA 267 Instructional Technology Consultant

Michelle Cowell,
AEA 267 Instructional Technology Consultant

Learning to code (computer programming) has recently been recognized as a valuable skill for students at all grade levels. Kids have been able to “read” code for years just by searching the internet or playing video games. But once they learn to code, kids are learning the computer equivalent of “writing” enabling them to control the computer rather than being controlled by it.

When students learn coding, they use problem-solving, sequencing, critical-thinking, math, logic, creativity, and structured language skills. The earlier we can start students practicing these skills, the sharper those skills will be as they move through school and the better prepared they will be for the workforce.

According to Code.org, there are 5,287 open computing jobs in Iowa but only 600 computer science graduates. Forbes magazine ranks salaries for computer science jobs as the second highest starting salary with an average of $60,000.

Across the country and around the world, schools are working to figure out the best way to expose students to coding and computer science principles. England is following in the footsteps of other countries, requiring coding for all students ages 5-14.

While some states are considering allowing computer science courses to count as foreign language requirements, most states are allowing those courses to fulfill English language arts, math, science, or social studies credits. At this time, Iowa is not one of those states.

Many schools in our area have started teaching coding through special activities such as Hour of Code and after school technology clubs. Now schools are looking at ways to transition these special activities into the classroom. Technology classes or library time, are a popular starting place for coding into the classroom. Popular tools for teachers include Code Studio from Code.org, or programs and apps; like Tynker, Codable, and Scratch, as well as programmable robots like Bee-Bot, Recon Rover, and Sphero.

How can you help your children begin to learn coding? There are some great resources you can get for your child. (And don’t worry if you don’t know how to code!) These resources are so easy, that you can learn along with your child. If you have an iPad try Daisy the Dinosaur, Scratch Jr., or Move the Turtle. Blockly, Scratch, and Code Monster are great online resources you can use regardless of your device.

For more information about learning coding, visit the AEA 267 coding website.

Michelle Cowell is the Instructional Technology Consultant for the Area Education Agency 267. Area Education Agency 267 serves over 66,000 students. In addition, over 5,000 educators rely on AEA 267 for services in special education, school technology, media and instructional/curriculum support. The agency’s service area reaches 18 counties and nearly 9,000 square miles.

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