Teaching kids to code is not a new idea.
More than 30 years ago, mathematician and MIT Media Lab
founder Seymour Papert
proposed the daring idea that children would program computers. He showed that
by programming a computer, children naturally learn powerful concepts in math —
and it can change how they learn everything else. His book, Mindstorms:
Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas, along with his work on the Logo
programming language resulted in many schools teaching programming to
As ready-made computer applications entered classrooms,
however, Papert’s vision all but disappeared, despite the other educators and
researchers who have continued his work (such as his student Mitchel Resnick of MIT Media
Lab, creator of the visual programming language Scratch). When I started teaching 6th graders
computer programming five years ago as a way to create art through code, it was
considered highly unusual.
But the tide is shifting, and computer science in
schools is now going through a revival, thanks to a confluence of factors such
as advocacy and new resources from CSTA, ACM, MIT
Media Lab, Computing in the
Core, NSF’s CS 10K Project, Code.org and many others. Today, programming is
easily accepted as a required STEM
class in our district, and computer science is returning to the education
The computer science comeback
The last few years have been an exciting time for anyone
connected with computer science education, and the change has been dramatic.
When I presented my student work at the ISTE 2012 conference, my session was one
of only four sessions labeled as “computer science” — a tiny speck among the
1,115 total sessions at the conference.
Just two years later at ISTE 2014, my presentations were
among 79 other computer science sessions. Based on the attendance at these
sessions, it is safe to say that there is a strong surge of interested in
anything related to coding.
Computer science education is becoming increasingly
accepted in our schools and is now a more integral part of the ed tech
community. Today, the reasons to teach students to code seem to be more
connected to the industry demand for programmers, or the need to understand our
digital world. But K-12 educators may find it useful to also focus on Papert’s
reasons: Teach students computer programming to help them learn everything
Below are some computer science-related tweets from ISTE
2014. In them, ISTE attendees tell the story of their rising interest in
computer science, providing evidence that educators are seeking out and learning
from CS sessions at the ISTE conference.
Want to learn more ways to incorporate STEM skills into
your lessons? Check out ISTE's STEM
Sheena Vaidyanathan is a computer science integration specialist in Los
Altos, California. Visit her
website and connect with her on Twitter via @Sheena1010.