In the Steve Jobs lost interview, he states: “I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.” It’s the ideology that drives the maxim: teach a man to fish. Teach a kid to do addition, and she can do a page of problems. Teach a kid to think in numbers, and she can apply that concept across the landscape of mathematics, jumping from concept to concept.
I want my kids to learn how to think much more than I want them to master individual tasks in school. When I think about literacy, it goes beyond being able to read and process a book. Computer programming, numerical acuity, and foreign languages all go into that idea of thinking critically about the written word, especially in the global online world that exists without borders.
All of that brought me online, searching for resources to continue the computer programming my twins learned over the summer at computer camp. The problem, of course, was fitting in coding between the already existent after school and weekend activities.
We have baseball twice a week, art once a week, guitar once a week, Hebrew school twice a week, Girl Scouts every other week, and a writing club that meets weekly in the evening, plus two lunch time clubs. Even though I swore that I’d never let them become over-scheduled, it’s hard to cut back on the activities they do with their friends because it’s structured social time. Those activities tap into their creative side, teach them the importance of teamwork, and connect them to a larger community. Like pre-gremlin Mogwai, they seem to multiply… even without water. Each new year brings a new interest, and so we keep adding activities, congratulating the kids for sticking with their old interests and improving on them while adding in new interests to boot.
None of them seem drop-able.
It’s the same problem schools are facing. Everyone recognizes the need for computer classes in schools, but what do you drop in order to fit them in to an already packed school day? No subject seems expendable, and that includes the fine arts and physical education which often get the shaft when it comes to fitting in more subjects. Cut out recess? Then students lose valuable time to learn how to socialize with their peers.
One answer is to pair it with other subjects: students can read Lauren Ipsum in English and include coding as an activity to understand the book. Students can learn how to code games that will help lower grades understand simple concepts in math. Another answer is to tuck it into lunch time as a social club for students to code and eat at the same time. (Though… er… computers and Capri Sun don’t really mix).
Until it gets added into the school curriculum in a meaningful way, we’ve been supplementing their education at home. Code.org provides plenty of online resources for teaching code to kids (including separate paths through the site for teachers and students). Books such as Python for Kids provide simple instructions for older children. We’ll be tackling projects such as Raspberry Pi this year. And there is plenty of help out there for forming face-to-face groups within schools or communities including Coderdojo, Code Club, or Code Now (for high school age students).
How are you fitting computer programming into your child’s day?