Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Coding to Learn: The Benefits of Teaching Kids to Code

Coding is for everyone! ~ Mitch Resnick of MIT Media Lab and creator of Scratch

Coding in Scratch opens up new opportunities for learning in the classroom and beyond. Mitch Resnick and his team at the MIT Media Lab designed Scratch for people to easily create their own interactive stories, games and animations and then share them with one another.

In his Ted Talk: Let’s Teach Kids to Code, Mitch says that young people today have lots of experience and familiarity interacting with new technologies (texting, playing video games, browsing the internet) but that doesn’t make them fluent. To be fluent with technology students need to go beyond consuming and become creators. He links this with reading and writing by saying that students are often comfortable “reading” new technologies but that they need to learn how to “write” with new technologies. They can do this by learning to code and writing their own computer programs!

Coding is the language of computers, it is how we tell a computer what we want it to do.
Expressing ideas through coding doesn’t have to look like endless lines of numbers and letters, we can learn to code using programs like Scratch (or see these coding resources). Scratch uses graphical programming blocks (or simple instructions) that snap together to create a sequence of actions that control your characters. It’s almost like building with Lego. After they create a program, kids ages 8 and up can share their projects on the Scratch website for other people to see and even revise.

When you learn to code it opens up opportunities for new learning in an authentic context. Students can learn concepts like variables in a meaningful way that is relevant and interesting, which helps the learning to stick. Through coding students can learn about experimenting with new ideas, how to take complex ideas and break them down into simpler parts, how to collaborate with other people on projects, how to find and fix bugs when things go wrong and how to persevere when things aren’t working well. These skills are relevant for learning to code AND for coding to learn.

Give coding a try at Scratch.mit.edu.