Ruben R. Puenteduras Weblog: Sketching In Code – Part 1: A Rationale

April 30, 2013

There’s been quite a bit of discussion lately about whether programming should form part of the standard K12 curriculum. My own personal view is that yes, it should – but not necessarily for the reasons that are being proposed. As with math, writing, the arts, history – pretty much everything that we teach, come to think of it – there are at least three good reasons to teach programming:

  • It gives kids a powerful tool to make things. What kind of things? You name it – one child might choose to make a game; another, a funky musical instrument. A third might choose to create an applet to understand math, while a fourth might gather and analyze data to better understand their world. Not to mention modeling proposed economic solutions for their community’s needs, and scrutinizing patterns in the speeches of politicians to see whether they respond to the virtues of these solutions, or the winds of public opinion…
  • It also provides a valuable tool for thinking. The skills and methods embodied in the design of algorithms and their translation into code – generally known under the rubric of computational thinking – are powerful conceptual tools that can inform and shape thinking in other arenas. At the same time, they can provide a salutary check on overblown expectations. For instance, there is much to be said for the potential of what has sometimes been called the uses of “big data” – but without a decent background in algorithmic thinking, it is also far too easy to be taken in by snake oil vendors that have hitched a ride on a legitimate development.
  • It introduces children to the beauty and pleasure of research and creation in computer science. This is an important – and far too frequently neglected – reason to teach programming. This is no different than what happens when we teach math or English: if we just teach the mechanics of algebra or essay-writing, say, without giving students at least a taste of the beauty of pattern or the power of communication of the medium, we are shortchanging our students, and potentially doing harm by creating a quasi-bureaucratic impression of these topics.

continue reading- Ruben R. Puenteduras Weblog: Sketching In Code – Part 1: A Rationale.

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