Why do you want kids to code?

This post by Jim Cash originally appeared on his blog on November 13, 2016. 

why-coding-coding-to-learn

I made this because I think there is an important distinction between learning to code and coding to learn.  I think the focus with students doing coding in schools should be coding to learn. Bill Ferriter’s graphic called what do you want kids to do with technology was the inspiration for my graphic. I created this for the same reasons he created his. Coding affords a means through which some incredibly powerful thinking, making and learning can take place.

I am of two minds regarding the current fascination with the use of coding in education worldwide. I like the attention programming is once again getting in schools and I like that teachers and students are exploring it in a serious way. However, much of that attention is preoccupied with efforts to help students to learn to code. I think the focus in education should be the coding to learn goals listed in the green-blocks, not learning to code blue-blocks ones. Of course, just because the educational focus is on the green-block goals, that doesn’t mean concepts in the blue-blocks won’t be learned. The difference lies in the intention and emphasis behind students coding in schools.

I’ve blogged about it before and I am still troubled by the hype surrounding coding right now. If the goal is let’s get students learning code then my question is why? What is the purpose of those coding activities? There is large body of research, conducted over many decades, exploring powerful learning processes through coding and designing (e.g. 1234). That’s nothing new. But if we are getting kids coding because code.org says they should, or we need to fill a future skills gap, then I think the most powerful aspect of children coding gets lost.