Posted October 27, 2016 – AWE Learning Staff
“…everyone should learn to program a computer. Everyone should learn a computer language because it teaches you to think.”
– Steve Jobs (source)
When it comes to early literacy, the opportunity for young learners to gain experience with coding has increased exponentially. Coding makes it possible to develop the computer software, apps, and websites that young learners will continue to use with increasing frequency. Increased exposure to these basic skills, even at an early age, can help children understand the technological world they inhabit.
According to Professor Marina Bers, coding helps young learners to think logically and learn how to solve problems when a sequence doesn’t work the way one anticipates. Given the makerspace trend that dominates the public library landscape, Bers compares coding with a playground. It allows young learners to produce tangible creations and hone their creative instincts.
An Edutopia article presents the importance of understanding coding with the following scenario: as children, we acquire language, we learn how to listen, and we learn how to speak. When we acquire texts, we learn how to read and write. This tradition of literacy begs the question: as technology becomes increasingly ubiquitous, shouldn’t we learn the basic principles and rules on which it runs? Conversely, ignorance of the language of technology may be equally as challenging as being illiterate or innumerate today.
This does not require all young learners to be driven to expert-level knowledge of coding. The goal for early literacy is simply to promote computational thinking or problem solving that combines logic, math, and an additional perspective on the world. Computational thinking encourages children to take risks, using trial and error to solve a problem.
Despite these benefits, studies show that while 90% of parents want their young learners to learn computer science, only 40% of schools actually teach computer programming. Currently only 31 states, plus Washington D.C., give credit for computer science courses as a math or science requirement towards high school graduation. Yet this is an increase from 2013, when only 12 states credited computer science courses in this manner.
It is clear that the focus on STREAM learning in school curriculum, libraries, and afterschool programs has generated meaningful efforts to include coding classes at all educational levels. Libraries especially strive to extend the STREAM focus by creating technology-driven makerspaces. The “new literacy” of coding aligns perfectly with these initiatives, and can equip young learners with the tools they need to succeed in our technological world.