My son had the opportunity to take several video game programming courses last year through an after-school program. They were using Scratch, a free program develop at the MIT Media Lab that can be used to create digital games, interactive stories, and animations. He loved it and he learned a lot, developing skills in creative thinking, design and problem solving, systematic thinking, and collaboration.
Coding is an important skill for students to develop, although I wish that learning and working programs such Scratch were also a part of my children’s school day, rather than an add-on after school activity. As Bill Gates has said, “Learning to write programs stretches your mind, and helps you think better, creates a way of thinking about things that I think is helpful in all domains.”
ISTE (International Society in Education) together with the CSTA (Computer Science Teachers Association) are working on a project whose goal, by teaching computational thinking in schools, will help students understand how the digital tools of today can help solve tomorrow’s problems. The following video developed in partnership with the NSF (National Science Foundation) decribes what computational thinking is and why this is an important skill for the 21st century.
You can find more resources at ISTE’s Computational Thinking web page.
The good news is that more and more schools are understanding that computer programing needs to be integrated into the curriculum. This development, however, is not at the level needed to train computer programmers to fill the projected 1.4 millions jobs in the computer field that will be available in the United States by the year 2020 as reported by Code.org, an organization dedicated to growing computer programming education.
In “Computer Coding Lessons Expanding for K-12 Students,” Michelle R. Davis explains how schools that introduce video game programming are helping children learn to code and develop skills in computational thinking as well as other core curriculum areas, without them even realizing it. As one computer science teacher states in the article, “Designing games…forces students to set up formulas and functions based on mathematics...”
You can go to Code.org: Find a Local School to search their data base to find where coding is taught in your area or to register your school.
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