Teaching Kids How to Code

An Interdisciplinary Project by Gilberto Creque

Section I

Introduction and Problem Statement

Hello. My name is Gilberto Creque and this website is my Interdisciplinary Project for IDS 4934 Capstone Experience for Interdisciplinary Studies.

We will be exploring how do we teach kids to code. I think most people can agree that teaching kids how to code is a worthwhile endeavor but what may not be clear is what approach works the best.

One of the big reasons there is such a push to teach kids how to code is the computer science graduates are well behind the demand. Educators feel that exposing children to coding early on is the key to making sure that the wrong perceptions of computer science aren’t made.

Section II

Background

While teaching kids how to code has been going on for decades it has certainly had more of a presence as of late. There has been a big push behind this initiative due to the fact that technology, particularly the advances made in Internet access, has allowed our society to grow and connect by leaps and bounds. It is more and more important that children understand how the technology that surrounds them works.

From politicians to entreprenuers the call to have kids to learn how to code has come from a wide swath of interested parties.

Code.org has an initiative known as "The Hour of Code" that calls from students all over the world to participate.

For my service project I worked with the wonderful folks at Codecraft Lab, a local non-profit that teaches kids how to code. This allowed me to not only work directly with the staff and students but also directly observe how the process worked or didn’t work.

Section III

Justification of Interdisciplinary Approach

An interdisciplinary approach to finding out the best way to teach kids to code will give inisight from various disiciplines.

One reason is this is an interdisciplinary problem involving computer science and education.

Another reason to look at an interdisciplinary approach is this is a global initiative which means understanding the culture surrounding education will be important when trying to get kids to learn to code.

Section IV

The Most Relevant Disciplines

While there are several different disciplines that directly relate to the problem none are more obvious than computer science and education.

The computer science discipline will focus on what aspects we should teach the kids, how we will teach it, and when we should teach it. You can start teaching kids easy to understand fundamentals and build from there. Logical thinking and masking the programming itself as a fun game or activity is a technique that works quite well.

The education discipline will also, surprise, focus on what aspects we should teach the kids, how we will teach it, and when we should teach it. There are many years of education techniques that can be a called upon to help kids learn how to code.

Section V

Insights from the Literature Review

There isn’t enough diversity being shown within computer science so many kids who are female, Black, or Hispanic believe that working in computer science is not for them.

Kids think that computer science is only for “smart people” and exclude themselves from trying.

Schools need help in teaching computer science because:

  1. Limited time due to classes being required to meet testing requirements
  2. No budget for computer science teachers
  3. Computer science teachers are hard to find

Growing up with digital technology is not the same as digital literacy.

Section VI

Identify conflicts

One of the only conflicts between the disciplines is that many educators believe that children are being taught computer science at too young of an age.

Children ages seven and under are at the preoperational stage of their cognitive development. They cannot manipulate information mentally and they do not understand concrete logic.

Children ages seven to eleven are at the concrete operational stage of their cognitive development. The are able to think abstractly as well as rationally but it is limited to observable phenomena.

Another conflict is who the focus should be on. Some groups are pushing for more females to be targeted in the initiatives while others may be doing the same for particular races and ethnicities. The conflict comes in when people don’t even realize the gender or ethnicity gaps occurring within the programs and are explained away by stereotyping.

Section VII

Common Ground

Everyone agrees that exposing children to any form of computer science will help them.

Most people involved in getting children to learn computer science realize that they cannot solely rely on the local school system to provide the education the children need.

Some key concepts of computational thinking to cover while teaching include algorithmic thinking, abstraction, evaluation, decomposition, and generalization.

Section VIII

Interdisciplinary Understanding

I think places like Codecraft Lab are going to be the most effective way of teaching kids how to code. The lab has afterschool programs at various elementary schools in the area. They also offer themed evening classes for kids to learn about things that particularly interest them such as robots, web apps, the Internet of Things, hacking, cyber security, or just to dip their toes in the water. This multi-pronged approach will give different kids the opportunities to learn about computer science.

The way places like Codecraft Lab work requires people with technical knowledge to come in and share that knowledge on a regular basis. That could be software developers, engineers, designers, project managers, anybody who has technical knowledge they would be willing to share.

Local school boards should also be making more of an effort to teach computer science. Changes would likely have to made at the state level to provide funding as well as to provide the time needed to focus on teaching children computer science.

About this project

Published December 7, 2015

Special Thanks

Shout out to Shannon Landin and Codecraft Lab! Without you guys I wouldn't have been able to do this project!

Project Credits

Images and video provided by Codecraft Lab or Gilberto Creque

Produced by Gilberto Creque

The site is based off open sourced code from NPR’s Visual Team

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