Should all children learn how to code?
“ Computer Science is an arty way of doing Maths and you get something to show for it at the end”Eva, Year 9
So, is it worth getting children into coding? Absolutely!
Take the Year 8/9 project, recently rebranded from ‘Coding using HTML’ to ‘Independent Learning Project’. The girls design emoji-style graphics using their problem solving and coding skills to plan out a design grid and put together their own shapes to make an emoji. The mark scheme gives an equal weighting to both coding skill level and independent working.
The project tests the girls’ problem-solving skills and they learn by trial and error. The patience and skill to make this cannot be underestimated and this represents around 4 hours of work, including the preparation stage.
The girls were asked to complete a self-evaluation on their problem-solving skills and they all felt that their skills improved noticeably throughout the project!
Sometimes, I find that girls don’t want to ask for help as they’re worried about losing marks on the independent learning aspect, but as I tell them ‘the best problem solvers ask the right question at the right time’. I love how this project does not alienate those with differing abilities and have found it to be hugely beneficial for dyslexic students in particular. It is the most determined who get the most out of it!
I have taught this project for 6 years now, it all started when a local female app developer in her early 20s visited my previous school and mentored Year 8 girls ahead of a competition run by the University of Bath.
She taught the girls how to make graphics purely from code which gave them such a huge sense of achievement, whilst also getting to be creative and expressive. My team was able to win the competition, and as it turns out, I have just written a UCAS reference for one of the girls whose team didn’t win, to study a Computer Science degree at Oxford.
Incidentally, we are now planning 2 distinct pathways in KS4 off the back of this project. If girls have enjoyed the debugging and problem solving they have learnt in KS3, they can opt to take GCSE Computer Science, and if they enjoyed the planning, creativity and end product, they can take OCR Creative iMedia (if they opt for double science).
Do all children need to learn how to code? – yes but not because they need to be able to program but because it teaches you a whole range of skills that are needed throughout life, not just in the classroom. What other subject stops all learning until you find a mistake? What subject gives you instantaneous feedback? What subject combines creativity with problem-solving?
Finally, a quote from one of those Year 9 students: ‘Computer Science is an arty way of doing Maths and you get something to show for it at the end’. Well put Eva!