One of the most important objectives in education is to prepare students for their future careers. Over the last two decades, coding and programming have emerged as some of the most desirable skills for employers.
To adapt to changes in the landscape of the jobs market, schools should adjust their curriculum and incorporate coding. This article will cover the benefits of students learning to code in school and offer a few tips to teachers on teaching coding effectively.
Coding is fast becoming one of the most important subjects taught in schools. Here are five reasons why it’s beneficial to your students.
It’s no secret that children grow up with an almost innate ability to adapt to new technologies. The way they pick up smartphones, computers and games consoles seems like second nature – but it’s just the nature of being young. Our ability to quickly pick up complex or technical tasks diminishes with age. For example, the older you become the harder it is to learn a new language.
The same goes for technology use and, more precisely, coding. Today, the importance of learning to code rivals even that of reading and writing. It’s a core skill that can help a child develop a deeper understanding of how technology works. Given the extent to which technology shapes our lives, learning to code helps develop a better understanding of the world around us.
Schools have a responsibility to provide their students with all the tools and skills they need to succeed in the modern workplace. Increasingly, that means an ability to code. Glassdoor reported that eight of the top 25 jobs in the US are tech-based and require some level of coding proficiency. These don’t necessarily have to be computer programmers but include roles such as Data Analysts and Scientists.
Similarly, a 2016 Burning Glass report found seven million job openings that year which value coding, with roles such as computer programmer rising 12% faster than the market average. These roles are also among the best paid around. Jobs requiring coding pay $22,000 a year more on average than those that don’t.
There is little point in focusing on skills that leave students with limited options when it comes to hitting the jobs market. By incorporating coding into the curriculum, you hand children an essential tool for building a successful career.
Coding can often be daunting. Presented with a significant problem, frustration can quickly build if you find yourself constantly walking down dead ends. But coding teaches a child that complex problems are simply a series of smaller problems that can be fixed in sequence. Coding can often be compared to hypothesis testing in science, particularly when testing whether a set of code will stand up and work correctly. Children will be taught to identify a problem, break the code down into segments and test each one, repairing faulty parts before moving onto the next problem.
It’s this mindset that makes great coders, and one that pupils will benefit from regardless of subject or circumstance.
To succeed in the method of hypothesising, testing and refining, you need one characteristic more than any other – perseverance. Creating a set of code only to see it fail upon testing is disheartening, especially if the solution isn’t immediately obvious. But if at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again.
Coding takes incredible levels of perseverance to try new things, test and find solutions to problems. It’s another vital life skill that students will draw upon for the rest of their lives.
Recent research for the University of Washington found that a natural aptitude for learning languages is a better predictor of coding proficiency than maths. Instinctively, you might think there are strong comparisons between maths and coding, but code is a language, and mastering it requires many of the same logical steps to be taken.
Code has a natural grammar and vocabulary to unlock. If you find a child is particularly good at it, you should also find their ability to learn new languages is heightened.
Coding is important and hugely beneficial, but it poses all-new challenges to teachers. Here are some quick tips for maximising the effectiveness of your coding classes.
One of the beauties of teaching coding is that it can be done live, right in front of your class’ eyes. Much like a live science experiment, teachers can create code and piece together programmes in front of learners, creating an exciting, informative educational experience.
This method also allows for a much richer lesson than one based purely on slides or a video. Teachers can answer questions on the fly, tailoring their code to plug knowledge gaps. Plus, learners can see what common errors are made by teachers and how to quickly rectify them.
There are financial implications for introducing coding in schools. The technology needed does require some investment, which might be a problem for schools with lower budgets. However, a compromise of two students to one computer might prove to be beneficial. Peer-to-peer instruction allows pupils to work in small teams. If one has a slightly higher level of understanding, they can help build up the other child’s knowledge by discussing answers and demonstrating solutions.
For teachers with high class sizes, it can help reduce the time it would otherwise take to fill in the knowledge gaps of each individual child.
Coding comes in many intricate languages. Teachers should focus on mastering the essential components of one coding language before introducing others. Over time, learners will be able to recognise relevant structures in new languages and transfer their skills and knowledge across.
One final piece of advice calls back to coding as predominantly a problem-solving exercise. Rather than focusing on building entire programmes, break the process down into many smaller steps.
Develop knowledge and proficiency of each line of code required to make up a more complex programme. Intentionally design bad code and challenge students to correct it. Jumble the order of syntaxes and semantics and test students on their ability to reorder them. These are all effective ways of teaching young people how to code.
Nord Anglia Education recognise the importance of coding in a modern curriculum that skills students up for today’s jobs market. To find out more about how your local Nord Anglia school incorporates coding into the curriculum, head to our schools page.