Should we be talking about coding or programming in schools?
The idea of teaching coding in school has generated unprecedented interest around the globe, with studies indicating that it is critically important, both educationally and socially, for students to learn how to code or program starting in Kindergarten. According to numerous research projects, the reason behind this is not simply to create a pool of skilled programmers to meet the needs of the job market; in fact, learning to code also enables children to use digital technology to develop their creativity. Furthermore, it helps students in our technology-based society to move from the role of ‘consumer’ to that of a ‘creator.’ In addition, students learn to develop algorithmic thinking which enables them to better understand, interpret, and assess the impact of such thinking on their lives. Some will even go on to take part in developing and guiding the use of algorithms in the world of the future. Coding also trains children to become independent citizens in a world where technology is ubiquitous. Finally, learning to code helps students better understand one aspect of the digital world in which we live and, in some ways, become better prepared for it. In short, this is why coding in school is important. Learning some coding basics at school now appears to be necessary to function in an increasingly digital world.
The first thing to understand is that, for many years, there was no debate about the meaning of the verb “to program,” which means telling a machine, software program or Web page what to do – a feat that is accomplished invisibly by the mobile phones, computers and social media we use every day. Back then, only programmers knew how to program. However, with the growing popularity of digital technology in society as a whole and in schools, many individuals—some novices and some self-taught – began coding and calling themselves coders.
1. The first distinction to make between coding and programming is that, generally speaking, coders have no formal training in computer science. Coders are usually novices who learned coding on their own, or in elementary or high school. Job postings do not advertise for coders, they advertise for programmers.
2. The second distinction that can be drawn between these terms is that coding is more closely associated with games and school (elementary or high school). Coding is fun; one often learns to do it at school or independently; one can code without being a real programmer; and one usually learns to code using applications designed for beginners, like Scratch Jr, Scratch, Swift Playground or Code Studio.
Coding is thus the term more often used in schools. It appears less formal and more fun than programming, which could be seen as a more advanced, formal stage of this activity.
Learning how to code: what are the key benefits for students?
Research shows that teaching computer coding starting in Kindergarten generates many benefits for students. Here are 12 key benefits of learning to code at school:
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION RESOURCES
Generally speaking, it’s simple for any teacher or educator to reap the benefits of coding thanks to the availability of easy-to-use tools and applications. Here are a few examples of websites and applications for learning or teaching coding at school:
Code.org is a non-profit dedicated to expanding access to computer science in schools and increasing participation by women and underrepresented minorities.
Kidscodejeunesse is Canadian, bilingual, not-for-profit organization determined to give every Canadian child access to digital skills education, with a focus on girls and underserved communities.