Learning Computer Code

In a recent CNN article Douglas Rushkoff wrote about the value of learning computer code.  We are living in a world that is increasingly being defined by computer programs. “Code is the stuff that makes computer programs work — the list of commands that tells a word processor, a website, a video game, or an airplane navigation system what to do.”

Computer code is a cornerstone of our information ecosystem. By learning to code we are developing an aspect of digital literacy and increasing our job prospects.

At CodeYear over 300,000 people, including New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, have signed up to receive free interactive coding lessons each week from the web-based tutorial, Codeacademy.

Another way to way to learn computer coding is with the iPad app Codea. Codea is remarkable code editing app that lets you create interactive simulations, games and just about any visual ideas you have.

“If you know how to code,” in Rushkoff’s words, “you can get a high-paying job right now, or make valuable stuff right now. You will understand more about how the world works, and become a participating member in the digital society unfolding before us.”

 

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4 thoughts on “Learning Computer Code

  1. Your school is very behind when it comes to thinking about technology in schools. The latest research overwhelmingly points to a decrease in learning and grades when students have “1:1” computing. The face to face communication is lost. The teachers ability to change the pace or content based on that subtle change in the eyes – all lost. And the students concentration is destroyed by multitasking. The teacher doesnt see but the screens zap open and shut to email, facebook twitter. The techno-boosterism is destroying a generation – maybe more if face to face communication is lost. Read Cass from Stanford’s research. Zitrain from Harvard Law School.
    A boast of 1{1 computing is as dated as a boast of “we dont grade” from the 1960’s. It will destroy your school.
    TURN OFF, SWITCH OFF, and FOCUS. The old way. It worked for 1000’s of years. Dont toss it away on a fad.

    • While you bring up good points I don’t think you are presenting a comprehensive picture. Consider the following:

      The world is undergoing foundational shifts. Universal education was designed to meet the social and economic needs of the industrial revolution. The social and economic needs of today are emerging within a digitally networked society, and the rate of change doesn’t appear to be slowing down. According to Cathy Davidson, chair of Duke University’s Digital Futures Task Force, 65 percent of today’s grade schoolers will end up doing work that hasn’t been invented yet.

      How do we prepare students for work that hasn’t been invented yet? While it’s difficult to predict what the social and economic climate will be like in the years to come, we can analyze trends and extrapolate future scenarios.

      Two of the biggest economic trends of the last decade have been the increased automation and outsourcing of our workforce. Standardized problems can be solved anywhere, whether it’s by robots, software, or an army of college graduates in India and China who will do it for a fraction of the cost. Yet the world is filled with problems that cannot be solved with standardized thinking.

      Our global environmental, economic and social challenges require non-standardized skills such as creativity, problem-solving and collaboration. Accordingly, these are becoming indispensable skills for learners and workers who hope to stay at the innovative edge of today and tomorrow. While these 21st century skills are essential, they aren’t enough. There is a growing expectation for these abilities to be leveraged and expressed using digital tools.

      We’re living in an age where digital technology is increasingly being used in both our personal and public lives. Computer software and digital networks have become cornerstones in business, politics and society at large. As a result, a new kind of technological literacy is emerging.

      While a certain amount of technical skills are important, the real goal should be in cultivating digital or new media literacies that are arising around this evolving digital nerve center. These skills allow working collaboratively within social networks, pooling knowledge collectively, navigating and negotiating across diverse communities, and critically analyzing and reconciling conflicting bits of information to form a clear and comprehensive view of the world.

      These new media literacy skills are expanding our definitions of literacy but must be cultivated from the foundation of traditional literacy. While traditional literacy is foundational, it is no longer solely sufficient. As media scholar Henry Jenkins has said: “Traditionally we wouldn’t consider someone literate if they could read but not write. And today we shouldn’t consider someone literate if they can consume but not produce media.”

      The literacy of the future rests on the ability to decode and construct meaning from one’s constantly evolving environment — whether it’s coded orally, in text, images, simulations, or the biosphere itself. Therefore we must be adaptive to our social, economic and political landscape. Those of us living in this digital age are required to learn, unlearn and learn again and again.

  2. So what happens teachers is that the students look at the screens not at you. Did you notice. They are no longer in communication with you. They are playing AND looking at the lesson on the screen. They cant even type properly on the Ipad. So soon you will notice your excellent school’s grades take a tumble. About 25% is what the Stanford Profs observed. Then you will wish you hadnt bought into this “ADVANCED” hype about using a computer.
    It is about teaching. face to face. Look in the eyes teaching. That is what made your school great. Without it we may as well stay at home and take courses online.

    • Thank you for your comments.

      >> “cleverer than you” said: “Read Cass from Stanford’s research. Zitrain from Harvard Law School.”

      I searched for the names you mentioned, but came up empty. I did find Jonathan Zittrain’s bio and blog, but I couldn’t find anything online by him that indicates that he believes that 1:1 computing causes problems for learning, or why. Would you be so kind as to cite your sources?

      >> “cleverer than you” said: “The face to face communication is lost. The teachers ability to change the pace or content based on that subtle change in the eyes – all lost.”

      We have been clear with our faculty that they are the masters of their classrooms. If there is a particular discussion or lecture going on that they feel would be best appreciated or understood with iPads off, then they are encouraged to tell their students to put the iPads away.

      >> “cleverer than you” said: “So what happens teachers is that the students look at the screens not at you.”

      When students are taking notes with pen on paper, are they making eye contact with or looking at their teachers any more than when they are taking notes on a computer or iPad? Should we discourage students from taking class notes altogether? This reminds me of the position Socrates took (as written down by Plato) with respect to the written word.

      >> “cleverer than you” said: “And the students concentration is destroyed by multitasking. The teacher doesnt see but the screens zap open and shut to email, facebook twitter.”

      I agree that “multi-tasking” in the classroom can certainly be distracting and destructive to learning, and this is something we need to be careful about. I have faith that our faculty know when a student is not paying attention (regardless of what is causing the distraction) and can easily pull that student’s mind back to the material at hand. Maybe Stanford professors aren’t able to do that (due to large class sizes, or other factors)?

      >> “cleverer than you” said: “They cant even type properly on the Ipad.”

      As for “typing properly” on the iPad, I think what constitutes “proper” typing will depend on the device in use, now and in the future. How we currently type on a typical computer is different from how in the past we typed on a manual typewriter, but I don’t find persuasive the claim that the typing we do on a computer keyboard is somehow “not proper” and therefore we should just stick to manual typewriters. The benefits of computer-based word processing far outweigh the cost in time and effort it takes to re-learn how to type on a computer keyboard. Likewise, I don’t find the argument that somehow the typing we do on the iPad is “not proper” and so we should forgo the benefits of iPads.

      >> “cleverer than you” said: “It is about teaching. face to face. Look in the eyes teaching. That is what made your school great. Without it we may as well stay at home and take courses online.”

      And to your final comment about taking courses online, many people are finding online courses convenient and helpful, and certainly less expensive than many “in person” learning options. I believe that online learning is a disruptive change currently in the early stages, and while not an option that some (or even many) people will prefer or choose (for now), I believe it will have a tremendously disruptive impact on institutions which remain locked-in to traditional educational models.

      I look forward to continuing this conversation with you.

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