In 2014, coding helped improve safety in Boston. During a blizzard, software engineers came up with the idea to create a website called Adopt-a-Hydrant. This gave people in Boston access to a map of all fire hydrants, encouraging them to keep them clear of the snow during snow emergencies and making the streets of Boston a little safer.
This is just one example of how coding has benefits beyond the confines of a computer. It is no surprise that, in recent years, computer programming has been increasingly taught in schools and that increasing student knowledge surrounding all things tech has gained popularity. In this blog, we wanted to explore the benefits to teaching students how to code, from promoting logical thinking to developing persistence.
What is Coding?
Computer programming teaches students computer science, information technology and digital literacy. This includes teaching them how to code and create their own programs. Code is essentially a different language – learning it allows us to tell a computer or a program what to do. This requires the use of computational thinking, a useful problem-solving skill. Breaking down large tasks into smaller steps, recognising errors and understanding human behaviour are just a few of the skills that students can gain from computational thinking. Its main aspects are:
- Decomposition – breaking down a complex problem into something more manageable
- Pattern recognition – identifying similarities amongst problems
- Abstraction – focusing on the relevant informational only
- Algorithms – developing a step-by-step guide to solve the problem
How is Coding Taught in Schools?
In 2014, the UK school curriculum changed to include computer programming. For over 5 years now, students have been learning about computing and coding in several ways; for examples, many students under the age of 6 aren’t taught using computers. They start off with basic algorithms or, in other words, a set of instructions.
Breaking down steps in a recipe for cookies is a good first step to introducing children to the world of coding. As students progress in school, they will begin to learn to use the internet and various programmes. Typically, by the time students enter secondary school, they are able to use at least two programming languages and can create their own programs. The computer programming taught in schools is simple enough for students to understand but will also give them the foundations they need to progress further.
How does Coding Benefit Students?
Coding literacy and education are about much more than just coding. Teaching computer programming does not necessarily encourage students to become developers; it just encourages them to tap into their creative side.
A meta-analysis of 105 studies found that there were many cognitive benefits associated with learning computer programming. Those who were taught computer programming demonstrated a positive transfer to situations that required creative thinking, mathematical skills, and metacognition, followed by spatial skills and reasoning.
Computer programming nurtures creative minds. Many students have a creative spark in them that needs to be fostered. The endless variations of coding can motivate children to work at their highest potential.
It is this creativity that will help build a foundation for innovation and leadership as it represents the ability to connect existing ideas with new approaches. Research shows that computer programming improves students’ creativity. For example, in this study, Year 5 students were divided into two groups: Logo experimental group and control group. Those in the experimental group completed 16 sessions of Logo programming – an educational programming language for beginners. All students did a test before and after the month-long module. When compared, the post-test creativity scores were significantly higher than the pre-test scores for students in the Logo experimental group.
The World Economic Forum recently released a report on The Future of Jobs, in which they stated that problem-solving, creativity, and critical thinking are some of the most important job skills to have. Teaching computer programming in schools can have long-lasting positive effects that are desired in employees and have lifelong benefits. Starting young can help students incorporate this into their core skillset and make them well-rounded for the working world.
Teaching computer programming in schools is important in many ways. It helps build a solid foundation for creativity and will contribute positively to future employment opportunities. We now know that the skills and thinking developed by learning computer programming are crucial to success in all other subjects – and later in life.