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Education Programming

Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Lately, Coding 125

Posted by samzenpus
from the show-and-tell dept.
theodp (442580) writes "The NY Times reports that the national educational movement in computer coding instruction is growing at Internet speeds. 'There's never been a move this fast in education,' said Elliot Soloway, a professor of education and computer science at the Univ. of Michigan. But, cautions the NY Times' Matt Richtel, it is not clear that teaching basic computer science in grade school will beget future jobs or foster broader creativity and logical thinking, as some champions of the movement are projecting. And particularly for younger children, the activity is more like a video game — better than simulated gunplay, but not likely to impart actual programming skills. 'Some educators worry about the industry's heavy role,' adds Richtel. 'Major tech companies and their founders, including Bill Gates and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, have put up about $10 million for Code.org,' which recently announced its CS programs will be rolled out to more than 2 million students — nearly 5% of all U.S. K-12 students — at 30 school districts this fall. Among the 20,000 teachers who Code.org says have signed on is Alana Aaron, a fifth-grade math and science teacher who, with her principal's permission, swapped a two-month earth sciences lesson she was going to teach on land masses for the Code.org curriculum. 'Computer science is big right now — in our country, the world,' she said. 'If my kids aren't exposed to things like that, they could miss out on potential opportunities and careers.'"
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Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Lately, Coding

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  • by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday May 11, 2014 @04:31PM (#46974527)

    "Coding" is nothing more than translating what computer science created into what a computer understands. Equating computer science with coding is like equating architecture with putting down bricks to build the house.

  • Silicon Snake Oil (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nbauman (624611) on Sunday May 11, 2014 @04:42PM (#46974569) Homepage Journal

    http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejou... [vt.edu]

    Stoll re-emphasizes his belief that the most comprehensive educational programming and technology systems could never replace a quality teacher. He recalls his own experience in a graduate physics class. The professor is discussing radiative transfer as Stoll is daydreaming in the back of the classroom. The professor realizes that Stoll isn't quite following the lecture and pauses to ask Stoll a few questions. Caught off-guard, Stoll has to think quickly and come up with a valid response. Fumbling through his first few questions, Stoll is skillfully led to the answer by a talented professor, using the only educational tool available; the Socratic method. Stoll states that there are plenty of computer programs that calculate radiative transfer, and even admits to writing some of them. However he believes that there are no software programs which could have taught him "as effectively as goofing off in Professor Marty Tomasko's class did" (p. 120).

  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Sunday May 11, 2014 @05:00PM (#46974665)

    miss out on potential opportunities and careers

    If you teach a 10 year old to write "code", that won't help them in 8 or 10 years time when they try to apply for a job. The "code" technology will have moved on in that time, so the stuff they learned a decade ago will be obsolete. The knowledge that a professional programmer has, has a half-life of a few years: maybe as long as 5 years in some areas - possibly as a short as 1 or 2 in rapidly developing fields of work.

    Since nobody can tell what skills will be needed in the next decade, learning a particular coding language, the "learning to code" is almost certainly teaching the wrong language to children. It would be far better to teach them basic maths, basic logic and how to think in abstract terms - rather than focusing on tangible, here and now, stuff that will produce children who can blink an LED on a Raspberry Pi today, but will have no clue about hw to deal with the "AI on a chip" they might be faced with when they start their professional careers.

    When I started my first job after graduating, the job description didn't even exist when I started my university course. So what is the chance that teaching 5 or 10 year children a specific computing skill will be relevant to their career prospects in 10-15 years time?

  • by Zmobie (2478450) on Sunday May 11, 2014 @06:17PM (#46975165)

    Coding is necessary to competently use a computer to solve problems.

    I have to strongly disagree here. I work as a software engineer and I have seen both sides of this coin. I have seen multiple people working as software engineers that could model and create respectable algorithms that couldn't use a computer beyond that to save their lives. CS =/= IT. I have also seen people that couldn't write "Hello World" if I gave them Eclipse and had it auto-create and format the shell for them, but they could do stuff with Excel and other pieces of software that I was unaware that software even had those features.

    I am all for this movement of we need more software developers, because we have tons to be done and no where near enough people (course this kind of works in my favor, but that is neither here nor there), but bottom line is software development is not some elementary skill that you should teach every kid in the world. Some people are just not geared to do it. That doesn't mean that software developers are inherently better or something, just different. There are still plenty of things these people can do. I just feel like we should make sure the opportunity is there (which in a lot of cases it is not right now), not try to cram it down everyone's throat (like what some of these movements are doing, and in many cases they seem to only have a rudimentary understanding of what they are trying to do).

    Code.org specifically I am on the fence about still, but there are quite a number of these other movements that are just plain hogwash ("learn to code in a year, in your spare time!" yea, right).

  • Re: No kidding (Score:4, Insightful)

    by russotto (537200) on Sunday May 11, 2014 @08:10PM (#46975721) Journal
    Actually, judging from the proportion of people who can't do it (even among those who claim they can), being able to write computer programs does make me special. But you could say the same for wiring a light switch or installing a faucet. Most people have no technical skill at all.

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