Just What Is Coding?

Last night, I was drawn in by the title of this article. 

Coding Class, Then Naptime: Computer Science For The Kindergarten Set

Truth be told, the “For the Kindergarten Set” was on the second line and my initial thought on the rest of the title could be about any Computer Science in the bigger context.  I can remember classes where my head hurt as a student trying to comprehend and then later my head hurting trying to explain concepts as a teacher.  Thinking is a tough activity; a good one, to be sure, but still tough.

Then, I focussed on the entire title and read the article two or three times to get the understanding.  I liked what I read and so decided to share it on Twitter / Facebook to see what my followers thought.  There were quite a few retweets and favourites which is always a sign of agreement. 

I knew that I would be challenged by Alfred Thompson who “just didn’t know”.  I think I know his position on the topic from a previous post on his blog “How Young Should We Start Teaching Computer Science?

That started an interesting back and forth.

It doesn’t take long to find articles about edutainment activities for the devices that are so prevalent with kids these days.  Games that are purported to be education in disguise.  You know, activities like Angry Birds that teach about acceleration, angles, and gravity.

So my question would be, why not an activity that enables students to take control over their device and actually construct something from nothing.  Or control an object (real or virtual) to perform a task or to draw something.  I’m not too influenced by Logo and its derivatives here, am I?  I’ll admit that I’m big on teaching and enabling people to learn and take control of their devices so that they master them and not the opposite.  If you haven’t already, you need to read Douglas Rushkoff’s “Program or Be Programmed“.  It’s in your school’s library, right?

The discussion brought me back to my childhood and the game Mousetrap.  Rube Goldberg was a genius.  Yes, it’s a game but I can remember playing and looking at it trying to understand completely how it worked.  Was this coding in some form?  After all, one object was dependent upon the action of another.  Is this an introduction to sequencing?

Maybe the problem lies in the title and the use of the word “Coding”.  The Hour of Code has most certainly raised the awareness of programming and its importance.  For that, I think future generations will be so grateful.  For today, authors need to have a title that grabs the audience’s attention. 

But, seriously.  Do students take naps in school?  The words do bring up a certain vision.  In that context, I can see the word coding doing the trick.  I knew that it drew me in.

“Computational Thinking, then Naptime” just doesn’t have the same allure.  Neither does “Problem Solving, then Naptime”.  Or “Creative Play, then Naptime”.

Maybe we’ll just have to deal with it. 

2 thoughts on “Just What Is Coding?

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