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Liana Heitin (@LianaHeitin) recently posted a blog from Educational Week, (http://bit.ly/1LG4uG2) on the topic of, “Coding for Elementary Students: A Growing Trend?” Or, is it a tech fad. Technology was never designed to replace the teacher. Technology is a tool not a learning outcome. Computer and technology companies, like Apple, have been marketing their product not only as educational wonders but having the power to increase learning outcomes. The results of over 35 years of marketing and sales has only increased these company’s sales and profits. At the same time as tech industries have increased, educational scores have decreased.
Back in 1984, IBM, Motorola, and Apple were competing for the computer market. I had learned FORTRAN, BASIC, and Pascal, and was interested in teaching people how to build, maintain, and program these computers. In those days, there were no teaching credentials for this topic, so I applied through the El Monte Unified High School District for a vocational credential to teach programming and computer systems. The State of California did not know what to do with this request, eventually I was awarded a VocEd in Computer Programming and Data Systems in 1985. I found out I was the first to apply and receive a VocEd teaching credential in computers for the State of California.
Looking back at all those kids who learned how to program in BASIC and Pascal, they are now today in their 40’s. Did computer literacy and programming prepare them for Smartphones, iPads, or any of the Social Media we have today? I would say–No!
Will teaching today’s elementary students coding skills help them 20 years from now? I don’t think so either! Grant you, programming offers skills in problem-solving, computer logic, and problem analysis. However, computers are continuing to be developed in more complexity with intuitive controls. Apps didn’t exist 10 years ago. Why do we assume our children will need to program computers in the future? How many of you out there program your computers, iPads, Smartphones, or other technical devices? I would assume very, very few. Today’s kids, as those in the future will be end users. The majority of students today don’t know how their device works, saves, or runs. They don’t need to.
What skills they will need, I believe, is learning how to ask the right questions (database research); Learning a foreign language and culture (Global Community Awareness and Interactions); how to choose the right tool to complete a job (problem analysis); and finally, how to manage available resources (Adaptability.)
Elementary students also need to have strong foundations in mathematics. They need to know their time tables, understand how to identify patterns, how to communicate (public speaking), and understanding visual symbolism in communications. Reading (analysis and reporting) is also important to help students as they progress the ladder of education. Coding is an elective. Changing a butterfly to a plane on a monitor and then moving it around the screen while changing sound and colors is fun, but what future skills are schools preparing students for? Technology is becoming both more complicated and intuitive. Technology will change, that’s a given, but the foundations of math, the Arts, science, reading, and public speaking are skills our children will need in the future, not how to code.