"Let’s just understand exactly what the Leader of the Opposition has asked. He said that he wants primary school kids to be taught coding so they can get the jobs of the future. Does he want to send them all out to work at the age of 11? Is that what he wants to do? Seriously? Seriously?"
Tony Abbott, 27th May 2015.
- learning to code doesn't just involve programming
- learning to code doesn't mean you need to have a career as a programmer
- learning to code in schools isn't about making children work-force ready at 11 years old
So, what is learning to code about?
In the early years it means having a focus on the development of algorithmic and computational thinking skills. This includes following and describing instructions, problem solving, and logical sequencing. As students progress through the year levels, they start to learn how to create solutions with visual programming and, in the later years, use general-purpose programming.
Here's 8 reasons (although there are many more) as to why coding in Australian schools is important:
1. Computing is a booming industry & we don't have enough Australian graduates
Despite the IT industry, software and hardware, exploding in recent years, graduate numbers dwindle in Australia. Digital technologies and associated industries represent 16% of the Australian GDP and are recognised as having the fastest growth. Yet, we don't have the students to fill the jobs!
With the uncertainty around the mining industry, we need to start investing in Australia's economic future by harnessing this global market. Australia is in a great position to produce and export the world's leading hardware and software. The introduction of coding curriculum into primary schools is a step in the right direction toward engaging Australian students early to consider computing pathways, particularly females who are significantly underrepresented in the field.
2. Other countries are already doing it
England, Finland, New Zealand and many other countries are already introducing or are preparing to introduce computing curricula into schools. This is a global movement and we need to ensure Australian students are prepared and skilled to participate in jobs of the future - on a level playing field.
3. Coding is for everyone & every profession
What do I mean by this? As our world becomes increasingly digitised - software and hardware are increasingly relevant to and present in many jobs today. Coding is about understanding the underpinnings of the technology we use. This is relevant to all careers as disciplines - from medicine, to science, to health and fitness, to education, economics and business. By understanding how technology works and how coding works - one can be involved in the process of developing technology in their career. Coding can be used as a "tool". You can create an application that might store information more efficiently, or that might perform a more efficient way of doing the same repetitive task. This video below is a great example of scientists using code to program robots to perform a task more efficiently - allowing them to focus on the Science!
4. It's about creating awareness & engaging students
Just as the Prime Minister has been mistaken about what coding in schools means for our children and their future; coding needs to be in schools to open the eyes of children, parents and society.
Researchers recommend STEM gender gap interventions are best served by designing educational environments that will engage children in STEM-relevant activities, from the very early years of school. Early exposure to coding can help to engage children, particularly seriously underrepresented groups, such as females, who disengage in STEM fields from an early age.
5. Coding in school is about Computational Thinking & creating solutions
In primary schools, the focus is on developing algorithmic and computational thinking skills. It's about having fun, creating digital solutions and solving problems. Research has shown, computing lends itself extremely well to other F-6 areas, particularly literacy and mathematics and allows for fundamental skill development in these areas. With code, children might create animated movies about a classroom story, navigate a robot on a rescue mission, make a game that teaches a subject or use code to manipulate and present data in interesting ways. Just as children write stories in English, or solve problems with Mathematics, coding is the new skill for the future. Further. through creating in code, young children are practicing reading and spelling, as well as mathematics.
Learning how to code is empowering. Students can learn how to be creators, not just users of technology. Particularly for women - it's important that females are engaged an interested as we need women to have a voice and a role in the technologies of the future! I particularly love the voices of young females in this video and what coding means for them.
There are SO many possible careers with code involved. There are cross-disciplinary roles or there are many professions within computing - such as User Interface Designers, Defence software development, research, the creation of technologies for all different purposes and needs, project management, visual technologies... the list could go on!
But if you need any more convincing, flick through the pages of the Careers with Code guide...
7. It's not necessarily about jobs, now, but it will impact on jobs in the future
Just as we aren't teaching mathematics in schools to produce engineers at the age of eleven, or teaching science in schools to produce eleven-year-old biologists, coding is about fundamental concept and skill development and providing a holistic learning experience. Coding is a modern skill - applicable and relevant to a whole host of domains. Once students are introduced to computational thinking and the power of harnessing code as a tool - they will never look at the world the same again!
But hey, young kids might want to be creators at a young age. There are some children doing amazing things. I'll leave you here with a video about a young boy who learned how to code so that he could create an affordable braille printer...
Children all over the world are signing up to out-of-school clubs or going to camps just to learn to code. Just have a look at all the Code Clubs popping up all over the globe.
I have received emails from the amazing people who to volunteer out of their own time to run code clubs in their local communities who say that they have had to turn down children because they don't have the resources or enough places to include them in code clubs! Young children are curious and they want to learn how to code so that they can create things.
If we had coding in schools, every student wouldn't have to miss out on an opportunity to learn to code.
I'll leave you here with a letter that was written to a Code Club organiser from a young girl wanting to join the code club. Could you imagine having to turn her down? Imagine this kind of passion extending into classroom learning experiences with code....