The Best Coding Curriculum Includes These 5 Elements
Over the past few years, there’s been a lot of interest in helping students learn to code and equipping them with skills that can be used in a variety of professions. There have also been many new programs and curricula designed to help students develop both coding and computational thinking skills. But, what do you look for so you know you are picking the right solution? In reviewing various coding solutions over the years as a Product Manager for Learning.com, I have discovered five key elements can be found in the best coding curricula out there today.
- Provides early experience
If you want to help all students gain interest in coding subjects, look for solutions that are age-appropriate and can be introduced to students in early elementary grades, so they begin to see themselves as capable coders early on.
Alison Master performed a gender gap study with kindergarteners in 2016, which surveyed students on their attitudes about coding and robotics. Then, she provided introductory instruction in coding and gave the students an opportunity to practice their newfound knowledge by programming robots. In her research, it was found that six-year-olds held stereotypes about themselves that boys were better at robots and programming than girls. Those stereotypes were even stronger than those about math and science. However, after providing brief instruction and practical experience with coding a robot to perform tasks, those differences of technology interest and self-efficacy were eliminated.
- Uses real, text-based languages
Last year, I was speaking with a computer science teacher who was frustrated that her students did not see their own coding skills. She was teaching an introductory course in computer science and was using largely block-based languages for instruction. While her students were building key problem-solving and computational thinking skills to become solid coders, they would ask, “When are we going to learn real coding?”
While these students were developing foundational skills, they were not developing confidence in their skills and could not connect it with languages used in the outside-of-school world. A study done at the University of Auckland identified this as a potential problem with block-based environments. While block-based coding can help to establish early confidence, they should be used only as an introduction. The earlier you introduce text-based coding, the easier the transition will be for students to real-world coding languages.
- Practices safe failures for fail-safe learning
For students to remain engaged in coding, they must accept failure as a part of the learning process and understand that failures in coding help the coder find the right solution. The more exposure students have to this concept in a safe environment, the more students will develop comfort in it.
This can take the form of debugging practices or coding challenges in which students are encouraged to continue to try until they have met the goal. A solid curriculum should have that built-in and reinforced throughout.
- Transitions students from consumers of technology to creators
To maximize learning and student potential, students must transition from consumers to creators. There are many great offerings that include fun games and coding challenges that help to teach concepts of coding and help students learn syntax and structure.
However, without providing a means for students to take that skill and apply it to make something relevant to themselves, the curriculum keeps the students as consumers of technology and not creators of technology. More importantly, until students create something that reflects their own identities, few will see themselves as capable coders or see coding as a means to solve problems in any discipline.
- Establishes teacher comfort with coding
For students to feel comfortable with a subject, teachers must be comfortable with it. This can pose a challenge as most teachers are not computer scientists or coders on the side. So how can a curriculum establish teacher comfort?
The best coding curricula come with detailed lesson plans, answer keys, online support, online PD, and just-in-time videos that provide the support they need to support students. These resources help ensure that students receive quality coding instruction, even if the teacher doesn’t have prior experience teaching the subject.
By introducing students to coding concepts early, you can help them build the skills they need to be successful in school, college, and future careers. You’ll also help ensure students have full coding experiences with opportunities to create real software on their own.
Looking for a computational thinking and coding solution that meets all five of these key elements? Learn more about Learning.com’s EasyCode solutions.