Should Schools Treat Coding as a ‘Basic Literacy’?

By Anthony Rebora — March 13, 2014 1 min read
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The Wall Street Journal has a nice piece on the growing interest in out-of-school coding classes, even among very young students.

The story notes that kids as young as 7 years old are now taking basic coding classes online and that, at least in New York City, afterschool private lessons in coding—akin to piano lessons or private academic tutoring—are not unheard of. Meanwhile, coding “boot camps” are gaining popularity among older students looking to gain marketable skills.

Enrollment in Web-development classes offered to elementary and middle school students by the Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth has grown from 63 students in 2009 to 762 this year, according to the piece. The director of the program, Patricia Wallace, attributes the dramatic rise to a relative dearth of computer science offerings in schools.

On the educational value of coding, the piece quotes Adam Enbar, founder of New York’s Flatiron School, which offers a number of pricey computer-programming courses, including a two-week session for high school students:

I equate coding to reading and writing and basic literacy. Not everyone needs to be Shakespeare, just as not everyone needs to be an amazing developer," he says. "But ... we're entering a world where every job, if not already, will be technical."

Education leaders and policymakers appear to be recognizing this trend, too. (How could they not?) As Liana Heitin reported recently in Education Week, a growing number of states and districts have taken steps to increase computer science offerings and better integrate them into their core curricula.

One major hurdle, experts say, has been finding and training teachers who have the expertise needed to teach such courses (particularly in a way that will engage already tech-savvy students). It’s also been noted that neither the Common Core State Standards in math nor the proposed Next Generation Science Standards explicitly includes computer science.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.