Teaching kids to Code

We hear a lot of ‘codes’ but very often it involves computer coding – from HTML to C, to Java etc.

To follow up on a coding class to my 5th graders, I took them one step back to give them more context about why we use and need codes. Society has always hade people who could code, if you think about it. It was just a way of keeping things secret, or understandable within a small community. See list at the bottom of this post for more on this.

But hiding in plain sight are lots of codes that students take for granted:

  • UPC Codes on packaging, books etc that encodes pricing 
  • Product codes (on say produce in a grocery store)
  • UPC codes on stickers on technology here in the school for inventory control
  • QR Codes – now becoming ubiquitous in marketing, on T-shirts etc

Into this mix comes the need to understand how coding is now a highly desirable skill set in many, many careers. (I tell my students that even if they don’t take up computer science, a knowledge of coding will help them manage digital spaces that they surely will be involved in.)

This week I began taking students to Khan Academy, which has a brilliant introduction to coding. It’s hands-on, and even as the video presenter explains, it lets you pause and tweak the code within the video, to reveal changes in the display area on the right. You could find the first lesson on coding different shapes, here.

I’ve been on many, many online learning portals, and this is beyond any doubt the most amazing example of how to engage a learner, even as the tutorial is in progress. I could tell, by how reluctant students are to log off. It’s almost a disservice to have to do this in a few lessons – I have been floating the idea of maybe starting a coding club in the school. I keep hearing that it is never too early to teach students how to code.

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