|Title||Coding in the Contemporary School|
Mr Adam Stepinski/Teacher of English and History at Copernicus Upper-Secondary School
Coding has recently become a buzzword in education. Teaching programming skills to students is perceived as a long-term solution to the ‘skills gap’ between the number of technology jobs in the industry today and the graduates qualified to fill them. Many specialists claim teaching word-processing and working on spreadsheets etc. is not enough in the 21st century. Students should instead consider focusing on creating their own programs and making computers work for our common benefit. It is estimated that the number of unfilled ICT vacancies in Europe only will reach over 800,000 during the next five years and it is predicted that there will be approximately 26 billion devices on the ‘Internet of Things’ by 2020. Such astonishing statistics prove that a large number of coders will be needed in the years to come. In the European e-Skills Manifesto published last year, it was said, “The world is going digital and so is the labour market(…). Skills like coding are the new literacy. Whether you want to be an engineer or a designer, a teacher, nurse or web entrepreneur, you’ll need digital skills”.
In addition to these experts, students themselves also notice the advantages of learning coding. While analysing the answers to the survey conducted by Microsoft in the ‘WeSpeakCode’ campaign, it was estimated that around 90 per cent of students in Asia think that ‘coding is cool’. Fortunately, statements such as ‘coding is for nerds’ or that ‘coding is only for boys’ did not gain much traction with the students. What’s even more comforting is that many expressed interest for their schools to offer coding as a core subject of study. Some are even considering taking programming classes outside of school due to the favourable career options available. It’s worth mentioning that many students feel unsupported in their interest in coding, suggesting an urgent need for educators to look deeper into this problem. Today’s learners realise that coding can help them better understand the digital world they live in. It also teaches students to think logically, fosters problem solving and develops their app making skills. When they learn coding, they are thinking about thinking and how thinking works. They have to imagine how a computer is going to do something for them.
There is a growing number of countries in Asia and Europe which are refocusing their ICT curricula on developing students’ coding skills and introducing this topic in national, regional or school curricula. In Great Britain in September 2014, they mandated computer programming in both primary and secondary education. Students start learning to write code when they enter school at the age of 5 and continue with this until they finish when they are 16. During the first three years they would be able to create and debug simple programs, comprehend algorithms and how they are implemented as programs on digital devices, and understand that programs are executed by following precise and clear instructions.
This leads to another issue, which has been widely discussed. Teacher training in coding seems to be one of the biggest challenges for many countries. After all, it is necessary for the teachers to be equipped with the right skills before imparting the knowledge to their own students.
Fortunately, there is an increasing number of international initiatives that support coding and its implementation in schools. Below, you will find some examples and links to follow (they’ll give you some hints how to start):
(an online course for primary teachers)
(an online course for secondary teachers)
– www.codeclub.org.uk/ (a coding club) – www.computingatschool.org.uk/data/uploads/CASPrimaryComputing.pdf
– www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latestnews/2014/computing-coding Some apps: