Your Kids Aren’t Robots, And That’s Exactly Why They Must Know How To Code

Aug 27, 2015 by


Muhammed Chaudhry –

My children aren’t robots. And I’m willing to bet yours aren’t either.

But in an increasingly standardized education model, some educators make the mistake of trying to fit all children into one pre-ordained box. This approach is both inefficient and ineffective because it ignores the diversity of human thought and fails to capture each child’s full potential.

The coding craze reveals a prime example of this ineffective standardization. Coding proponents and a growing number of educational institutions argue that “Coding for All” is the new educational paradigm. In Bloomberg Business Week Paul Ford argues that millennials struggle to find permanent employment with benefits — unless they know how to code. Likewise, Florida has a set of K-12 Computer Science standards that specify students learn all coding in Logo, Visual Basic, C++ and Java. England has mandated a national computing curriculum since 2013 that includes coding from the earliest grades. San Francisco just announced a system-wide K-12 computer science program. Even the White House has sponsored “An Hour of Code” session with the President trying his hand at it.

While these coding-focused initiatives are well-intentioned, many so far ignore that coding is not an end itself, but one means to get to a far more critical end: computational thinking skills.

As a father and as the head of an education foundation deep in the heart of Silicon Valley, I strongly advocate for coding and say the earlier the better. Yes, coding has become a regular part of our ever changing workforce, and therefore will be a regular part of the ongoing routine for my four-year-old twins. But precisely because my twins aren’t robots, I will ensure that they remember why they’re coding in the first place — and it isn’t to become the world’s greatest coders. As Tasneem Raja said in her 2014 Mother Jones article, “Knowing all of the Java syntax in the world won’t help if you can’t think of good ways to apply it.”

Learning to think in an orderly, systematic way may well be the most important skill that a student can learn from studying computer science. Yes, learning that skill happens to require some coding. But stop for a moment and drill deeper. Students need to learn how to break problems down into parts, figure out how those parts relate to one another, devise a system that brings the parts together into a solution, and then test their solution. In early grades, these skills are best learned in the context of the existing curriculum, rather than in a new course or subject.

In other words, we needn’t necessarily overhaul our curricula with a dozen new courses on coding. Instead, the principles of computational thinking should be integrated into science lessons, social studies lessons, and even literature and art lessons. This process of integration and building computational thinking skills can continue into middle school and high school. This seamless transition teaches coding while applying it to practical life—rather than simply showing kids how to robotically memorize lines of data.

Source: Your Kids Aren’t Robots, And That’s Exactly Why They Must Know How To Code – Forbes

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