Instead of playing video games, the kids gathered in the media center on this day are designing games; and they’re only in elementary school.
“In 4th grade, being able to go home and say, guess what I did today? I created a game on the computer, that’s huge,” said Dr. Jonathan Leff, principal of Silver Shores Elementary School in Miramar.
The students at Silver Shores are part of an exploding trend in education: teaching computer coding, which used to be called programming, to young students.
“They come to school, boom, they’re ready to learn, they’re ready to engage in whatever it is they’re doing,” said Leff, pointing out that coding has extremely beneficial ripple effects.
Coding is simply instructing the computer to do what you want it to do. But the process not only excites the kids, Dr. Leff said it teaches valuable skills that carry over into their other classes.
“To us, we see collaboration. We see higher-order thinking. We see logic. We see critical thinking. We see kids looking at a computer screen and solving multi-dimensional problems.”
“And those are skills they need, and they don’t even realize they’re doing it,” added Dawn Lopez, Media Specialist at the school. “They’re just having fun.”
Lopez said one of the best things about learning how to code is that kids from any academic level can do this; this isn’t just for the gifted classes.
The web site www.hourofcode.org guides the teachers here, and it has a video featuring computer visionaries such as Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and also, somewhat inexplicably, Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat, encouraging kids and adults to learn computer programming.
“Coding is something that can be learned. I know it can be intimidating, a lot of things are intimidating,” Bosh says in the video.
So can kids learn this on their own at home over the summer?
“Absolutely,” responded Lopez, “and the kids ask me this almost every day, can we do this at home? Absolutely, they can go to that hour of code site and go in and play the tutorials on their own.”
There’s your summer school assignment, kids: break the code on learning how to code. As the push to intensify science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education continues, it can only help students to get ahead of what’s coming to schools all over the country.