TRUE/FALSE All Kids Should Learn to Code in School

That is the question I will be asking three of my friends and colleagues at our SXSWEdu panel on March 7th. This question gained urgent relevance on January 30th when President Obama pledged $4 billion for coding in schools. Amidst the excitement generated by his announcement, there remains a sense of uncertainty about what coding in schools actually will or should look like. There are critical questions that must be asked as the movement to bring coding into schools takes off nationwide, and we plan to discuss them at our panel:

  • WHY do we say we should teach all kids to code?
  • Do we really mean ALL kids?
  • What do we mean when we say “code”?
  • WHAT should we teach, and WHEN?
  • And HOW should we teach it?

Diving right into these questions can be tough, as there are deeply held beliefs and assumptions that underly our answers. We have found it helpful to frame the discussion by starting with the question, “What subject you think coding should be analogous to when taught in school?” In other words, do you expect coding to be like math, or should it be more like art or music? Or maybe coding should be integrated as a new science subject, or treated like a new foreign language (after all, many states are allowing coding to count as a language for graduation).

My co-panelists and I have found that we each have different answers to this framing question, and that our answers reveal subtle differences in how we think about teaching kids to code. We also recognize that those subtle differences can profoundly affect our recommendations for how to best implement a program to bring coding into schools. So to kick off our discussion in advance of the panel on March 7th, I would like to ask my co-panelists to share their answers in posts of their own this week.

Then, I hope that we will continue to explore the questions about WHY, HOW, and WHAT in posts over the weeks leading up to our panel. We welcome any conversation that these questions elicit, so please respond with your own answers and explanations in the comments below. And, if you are going to be in Austin for SXSWEdu, we hope to see you at our panel discussion.

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