By Guest Blogger Barb Kilpatrick, faculty member at Noble Academy
“Coding is the new literacy. To thrive in tomorrow’s society, young people must learn to design, create and express themselves with digital technologies.” – Mitchel Resnick, a media arts and sciences professor at the MIT Media Lab.
In the modern world, literacy has grown to encompass so much more than it did when I was a kid in middle school. Blogs, YouTube, memes are just some of the new ways in which our youth are consuming and reproducing ideas. They are constantly immersed in digital media, and many would argue that to be truly “literate” in today’s world, kids must go beyond books. Where they can find personal power in media literacy is to gain the ability to create that digital media — and that lies in the world of coding.
Mid-year, we started Coding Club during math class every other Wednesday for intermediate students who were performing well in math and could benefit from some enrichment. About half of my students who are involved in Coding Club say that they want to pursue a career that will involve coding. What is wonderful about this exploratory time, though, is that coding teaches so much more than just “how to code,” and the benefits are plenty for all of the students involved.
When kids learn to code, they’re learning a new language. One with new vocabulary and syntax – a whole new set of rules that need to be followed precisely for things to work. Kids learn how to problem solve and fix their own mistakes. They learn how to isolate the problems they see on the screen to one or two lines of code and how to modify them to get the results they want. We were fortunate enough to have an expert parent, Mr. Timothy Rundle, dedicate his time every other Wednesday to come and help kids navigate through the sticky spots (as I am a still a newbie to this world of code!). They could ask big “what-if” questions or simply get “stuck,” and Mr. Rundle would help them help themselves. Coding inspires creativity and questioning. Once kids learn the basics, their imaginations take flight. So many of the kids began asking how to create different types of games, animations, 3-D platforms; some created long story-arcs with animated figures and pop-up text; others even created interactive question-answer quizzes and review games. Plus, or what the kids would say is most important, coding is fun. They love getting to tinker around with technology. While they are often consumers of that technology, we need to make more opportunities for them to be creators and to have ownership of that technology.