Learning how to use technology prepares students to
become expert consumers. Learning how to program technology, however, makes them
Coding is no longer just for students who are interested in a programming
Just as pen and paper were
integral tools for the information age, coding has become one of the basic
building blocks of a digital society — not to mention one of the most relevant
and widely applicable STEM
Programming skills give students the power to influence and direct their future.
“All of my students learn to persevere, to not be afraid of making a mistake
and to enjoy a challenge,” said teacher Deb Smith. “Their sense of
accomplishment is priceless.”
Since only one in 10
schools offer computer programming classes, bringing
coding into the classroom often means teachers must start from scratch. So
we asked educators to offer
their best tips
for getting started. Here’s what they
Start small and build from there.
For many educators, teaching coding means learning it
alongside their students. That was the case for Christy Novack, who recently
started an intro to coding class at her middle school. She found Codeacademy’s tutorials
getting her own feet wet.
“I hemmed and hawed about how to approach it,” she said. “Do I teach
fundamentals? What programs do I use? I ended up having to choose one program
for now for the sake of my own focus and learning.”
Her colleagues suggested object-oriented
programming as an entry point, so she chose Scratch to start with and will use Alice
for students who are ready to
advance to the next level.
Web programming makes another good entry point for
developing an understanding of how software works. Not all students will warm to
object-oriented programming, but most learners love to get hands-on by building
websites. Teacher Melissa Wrenchey starts her students on light programming —
HTML with CSS — and then uses Processing.org
to build on those principles.
Provide a pathway for advanced
Many kids take to coding naturally and will rapidly progress beyond the
basics. Be prepared to provide advanced students with new avenues for continuing
“I started with the basics of Scratch with third graders. Once they got their
feet wet, many of them wanted more,” said teacher Lyne Motylinski. She divided
her students into groups and allowed them to choose a project — from simple
animations to choose-your-own adventure stories to video games.
“Once they started, I taught skills to groups as needed, and often they would
then teach each other,” she said.
- Start a
computer club for those who want to progress beyond the class
lessons, suggests Harry Keller, president of Smart Science Education
- Team students up and have them tackle the computing
problems at CodeChef, says technology director John Faig.
- Think outside the classroom by guiding students to coding
Tackle real-world problems.
Like any other skill, coding becomes more relevant when kids are able to use
it in a way that’s meaningful to them.
Teacher Douglas Kiang guides his students toward creating apps that serve their
community in some way. For example, one of his students worked with a parent
to develop an app that teaches autistic kids to count. It’s now used by teachers
and schools to help children across the autism spectrum.
“My kids learn how to code, but many of my students learn a more enduring
lesson about making connections with others to find ways that their coding
skills can make a difference in their community,” he said. “That is the most
valuable lesson of all.”
Try it for an hour.
Don’t feel like you have time for coding in the classroom? Spend just one hour helping students learning
to code, and see what happens.
Amanda Pressly contributed to this post.