Pacelli Column: Programming Their Futures
Computer coding new, integral piece of well-rounded learning in K-12 Pacelli Catholic Schools
By Jeff Bushman, Director of Technology, Pacelli Catholic Schools
“I’m so close to getting it right, I just want to work through it.”
Those are the words of a fourth grade student at Pacelli Catholic Elementary School while learning how to code last month.
At Pacelli Catholic Schools, every kindergarten through 8th grade student is taking a coding course. Coding, or computer programming, is an essential element of computer science.
Kids these days are immersed in their phones, tablets, and other technology. However, very few of them know how it all operates. Learning to code gives them an opportunity to have a basic understanding of how the devices we use every day actually work.
Why is it important that we teach our kids programming? Last year there were more than 600,000 high-paying tech jobs across the United States that were unfilled, according to the White House. Beyond that, the Bureau of Labor predicts that there will be over 1 million more jobs than computer science students by 2020.
But this is not just about career development. We do not even know what jobs will exist when our elementary students will be in the workforce 10 or 15 years from now. Introducing our youngest students to coding is teaching them about designing projects, communicating their ideas, and learning strategies for solving problems.
Gone are the days where programming just meant sitting at a computer using a keyboard and mouse to write individual lines of code, by yourself. Now, it is about collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and communication – all skills that are transferable and sought by most employers.
Our elementary students are programming interactive robots using an iPad. Our middle school students are creating games, solving puzzles, and learning about app development. As one of our fifth graders put it, this is hard to do but fun! They work both individually and in groups, and our often encouraged to showcase their work.
It is also important to not think of coding as a separate subject area, but rather how we can incorporate it into our existing curriculum. While our students are creating games, solving puzzles, and programming robots, they are also meeting curriculum standards in language arts, math, science and art.
Additionally, coding is about learning how to fail, often over and over again. The beauty of having our students learning code at a young age is that it encourages and supports problem solving and creative expression.
So when a student knows they are so close to getting it right that they simply want to work through it, coding allows them that opportunity until they get it right.
And when they do, they move on to solve the next challenge.