STEM in Primary

STEM in Primary
A blog for those interested in primary school STEM education

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Why Coding for Kids?

Stuff this week - Why Coding for Kids?

So why is the USA bringing in the CS FOR ALL initiative? Why is the QLD Government promoting its policy of #Coding Counts? Why did the U.K. change its curriculum in 2014?

It isn't because government believes there is a need for millions of computer programmers in the future. Generally the view is that the world of the future will require those that can not only use technology but also be able to understand it and create with it. This view is not new as this Guardian article from 2014 shows (and this Forbes article from 2013). The U.K. has led the way from a country point of view. Their curriculum states that "A high quality computing education equips pupils to use computational thinking and creativity to understand and change the world"

Thus it is not specifically the skill of coding that is the ultimate aim of the curriculum. The actual goal is to equip all kids with the skill of computational thinking. This involves being able to take a large problem and break it down into smaller parts. To examine those parts and looks for patterns which can be exploited to further simplify the problem. To strip away any unnecessary detail before creating a solution which can be represented as a series of logical steps. Finally to be able to evaluate the solution to ensure it does actually solve the original problem.

There might be a number of ways that a skill such as this might be able to be taught and learnt. However, the easiest way is to teach kids to code as they can't code if they don't use these skills. Notably this skill is not only useful when coding it can be applied to any complex problem that is encountered.

A great side effect of this coding skill is that it can lead to greater engagement in many subjects as this new form of creativity allows kids another form of expression to show their understanding. For example, instead of creating a PowerPoint presentation to show an animals lifecycle a Scratch animation could be produced instead.

So having our kids understand how the technology that will rule their lives works rather that just being able to use it will set them up to be able to prosper in this technological age. (And done well they will have fun doing it)

What do you think? Is this a fad or is it a new form of literacy?

More reading on this topic:
Should you teach kids to code - Swayed by tech evangelists, the UK government has put programming on the curriculum. But will kids really be left behind without it? The Guardian December 2015

An education for the 21st century means teaching coding in schools - An Australian perspective from The Conversation May 2015

Stuff in the news

Code: The Next Universal Language. A TED Talks playlist.

Stuff to buy

PocketLab - You probably missed the upgraded version of this on Kickstarter but the original version might be all you need! This is small device that incorporates sensors to log motion, acceleration, angular velocity, magnetic field, pressure, altitude and temperature. Conduct your own experiments and record real time data! How fast are you going on that swing?!
Circuit Scribe - Let your creativity merge with science as you build exciting circuits using a conductive ink pen, sweet magnetic modules and plain old printer paper
Blueberry4 - A fantastic Australian invention teaches the fundamentals of computer architecture
New pink version of the mBot - A capable and low cost robot

*At this point in time I earn no money from any product I list and I am not affiliated with any other company.

Stuff in education

Just because a school is focused on STEM it doesn’t mean that the other subjects don’t matter.
Navigating a STEM School as a Non-STEM Teacher
The secret to effective STEM education might be in a new Swedish graphic novel
Is this graphic novel STEM education’s secret sauce? 

Stuff to do in Brisbane

Flying Fox Studios - A studio offering programs in the arts, music and construction areas from babies to teenagers in Brisbane
Young Engineers Australia - Provides an engaging, hands-on learning platform using LEGO® and K’nex® assembly kits
CoderDojo - A volunteer run programming club

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