Why don't more schools teach programming?
Guest comment: We need digital optimists! Why programming belongs in the classroom
DUSSELDORF. Digitization is one of the greatest change processes in history, affecting all areas of society at breakneck speed. The iPhone was invented just eleven years ago - and app-based digital companies such as Instagram, Uber and Snapchat are already among the most valuable companies in the world. But digital innovations are also fundamentally changing our previous way of life in medicine, politics and infrastructure. It's time we teach our students the basics of digitization and the corresponding mentality - says our guest author Stefanie Mrozek, who represents a young company that introduces children to programming in a playful way.
Four thoughts on why we should finally offer coding in schools - and why we have to rely on the initiative of individual teachers and schools in Germany.
# 1 Digital education means: actively shaping the digital world, not just consuming it passively.
Snapchat, YouTube and Instagram are integral parts of the digital world of students - that won't change anytime soon. The digital world offers much more than just passive consumption. Software, algorithms and artificial intelligence - all big words, but the basis of all these terms are always ones and zeros, bits & bytes: programming code. In order to fully understand this digital world, to be able to design it themselves and not just perceive it passively as a consumer, students have to learn the basics of programming.
And where can students do this best? At school, of course. The purpose of the school is to arouse interest, promote talent and prepare students for the future. In an increasingly digital world, programming languages must therefore play a much larger role in schools.
# 2 Teaching programming languages to schools has to be fun for everyone
Nobody expects us to suddenly train all of our students to become software developers, backend designers or database specialists. Just like nobody expects every student to be able to finish a marathon run. But a 100-meter run should be something everyone should be able to do. It is the same with programming: however, every student should have a basic understanding of variables, loops and algorithms.
Fortunately, this topic is ideal for imparting knowledge in a very practical way - plus: it can be ideally combined with the content of the MINT subjects. Calliope is already being used in many elementary schools, a small computer with which pupils up to the 6th grade get an insight into digital studies. The programming kits from “Codino” with a project-based approach, for example, offer a logical further development for students from the 7th grade. Both offers bring the programming code into the real world and thus enable a practical and at the same time creative approach to learning. The entry into the world of programming is playful - and inspires students and teachers alike!
# 3 Learn from other countries - let's follow digital pioneers!
In an international comparison, countries such as Finland, Estonia and Great Britain are already leading the way. These countries have long recognized the importance of digitization and programming languages as the ABC of the 21st century, albeit with different approaches. And so they teach the basics of programming to first graders in Great Britain, for example. As long as programming languages are still not anchored in the curriculum in Germany, we have to rely on the initiative of the teachers.
Fortunately, that is exactly what is already happening in Germany! We can already see that committed teachers are taking the initiative and setting up programming workshops or technology groups. It is precisely these committed teachers who promote digital education in Germany, often out of personal interest. That is both admirable and exemplary - at the same time it is regrettable that politics at the state level in some federal states are not acting faster.
# 4 It's about a positive attitude - we need digital optimists!
You don't have to like everything about digitization, and there are certainly challenges: cyber bullying, short attention spans and more. We have to proactively counter these side effects and risks, but we shouldn't therefore condemn the entire development. On the contrary: we have to see it as a great opportunity for our students and support them with comprehensive educational offers. At what other point in history was it possible for a 17 year old to start an online homework platform? Or for a 13-year-old to program an app that is used around the world?
A Chinese proverb says, when the winds of change blow, some build walls and others build windmills. We should build windmills.
Stefanie Mrozek is Head of Marketing & Sales at Codino. She completed her business studies with computer science as a minor at the University of Mannheim. After completing her studies, she first worked for a management consultancy and then as a brand lead for an American group. Together with Stephan Hillekamps and her husband, Dr. Alexander Mrozek, she developed the “Codino” construction sets, with which “digital tinkerers” can develop programming in a playful way. www.codino.de
The topic is also hotly debated on the News4teachers Facebook page.
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