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8/9/17 at 01:43 AM 0 Comments

Can You Teach Coding without a Computer?

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According to Code.org, students like computer science and the arts the most of subjects in school. Additionally, 90 percent of parents want their children to study computer science, but just 40 percent of schools teach computer science. Furthermore, 71 percent of all new jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math are in computer science, but just 8 percent of STEM graduates are in computer science. It’s obvious that there is a huge disconnect between what students, parents, and the job market want and what schools are teaching, as far as computer science goes.

An integral part of computer science is coding, the lines of code that create software programs that run our world. Computers are networked to do everything to manage our thermostats to turning our lights at home on and off remotely. Apps provide entertainment, information, and skill building. Computers and coding run medical devices that save lives and make life easier for millions.

There is no denying the importance of teaching coding. It’s not just enough to learn how to type and use Microsoft Office anymore, as it was in the 1990s. Students today need to learn how to code because it is just as important to understanding the world around them as, say, understanding math, history, or science.

Schools
For schools, however, it can be extremely expensive to find a knowledgeable computer science teacher who can, or any teacher who is willing to learn how, to teach at least the basics of coding and computational thinking to students. Besides getting enough decent computers, computer lab space, curriculum, and hiring a teacher, schools have to deal with the fact that their state may not allow students to count the computer science course they took in high school toward their graduation. (Just 35 out of 50 states do so.) So, even if a school invests the time and energy into starting coding classes, students may not take advantage of them because the time they spend in that class won’t go towards their graduation credits.

So Can Coding Be Taught with Minimal Resources?
Coding does not have to be taught in a shiny new computer lab with the latest in hardware and software. In fact, many of the basics can be taught with simple, very inexpensive materials that teachers can find at the grocery store, in their classrooms, or in their own homes. Even better, a school does not necessarily have to hire a dedicated computer science teacher to instruct students in coding. If a parent or community volunteer want to run an afterschool club for interested students or to go into classrooms and to teach a short lesson on coding in classrooms while a teacher works with other small groups, students can start to get the basics down without needing to have their own individual computers and access to the Internet.

The point of coding lesson plans that don’t require computers or Internet is to teach computational thinking, or the ability to solve problems with abstract thinking. They teach loops, sequencing, and other fundamental concepts that students need to understand before they can start mastering a programming language and creating their own games, apps, and websites.

Resources
So where can teachers go to find materials to teach coding with minimal resources? The Internet is full of lesson plans for coding, many of which have been created by teachers. Here are a couple of free ones that you should check out if you’re planning to teach coding.

Code.org
Code.org is the organization behind the Hour of Code, a worldwide movement designed to bring attention to the need for students to learn coding. This site offers free curricula for elementary, middle and high school students, broken down into individual lessons. Middle and high school curricula consist of a few different courses students can take, such as Computer Science Fundamentals – Accelerated and Computer Science Discoveries.

CS Unplugged
According to this site, “CS Unplugged is a collection of free learning activities that teach Computer Science through engaging games and puzzles that use cards, string, crayons and lots of running around. . .Importantly, no programming is required to engage with these ideas!”

All You Need is Code
This site offers 12 lesson plans created by teachers at the primary and secondary level. They are free and were created as part of an online course in how to teach computing.

Coding is more than learning lines of code. It is a completely different way of looking at the world and solving problems than many people have. When students are exposed early and often, they learn to consider problems from new vantage points and to employ solutions others might never think of.

Even with very limited resources, parents and schools can teach the basics of computational thinking and coding to give students a head start in understanding our computerized and interconnected world.

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