Category: Before Class
Teaching Children Coding and the Challenges Faced
by Keijo Sipilä
Coding is the newest addition to the modern day curriculum and is arguably the most important skill to learn in the 21st Century. Considering its great importance, this is a skills that is best honed when taught from the earliest stages of education alongside other core ICT competences. Countries such as Finland, England, and Italy have already begun to implement coding into the curriculum and Estonia has been teaching it in schools for a longer period of time. I was invited to attend an international panel discussion at the BETT Futures arena to share experiences and discuss the challenges that educators might be facing due this reform of curriculum.
In the panel discussion we discussed various reasons why learning coding in school is important
Modern society is saturated with technology
Since modern society is saturated with technology, it is beneficial for the students to realize how technology actually works and how it is fundamentally built; coding is a huge part of this process. Many feel that in the future coding will be common knowledge so it is important for students to realize the potential of technology now. Mastering technological skills will open up new doors in the future: there will be jobs in the future that require more and more technological solutions and jobs we at the moment don’t even know that will exist.
Today IT sector is largely male dominated.
Today’s IT sector is male dominated; learning coding early on will help to balance out what may become one of the largest industries of the future. Shifting the way coding is viewed from simply a way to learn various programming languages to more of a form of self-expression and developing problem solving skills is essential to get both men and women interested in learning the skill.
Challenges faced were the same across countries
We found out that the challenges faced were the same across countries. Teachers need more time to train themselves, develop resources to help them, and prepare learning materials to utilize with students. Luckily there have already been initiatives in Finland and in other countries where enthusiasts, volunteers, enterprises etc. have organized coding camps, clubs, and events in schools to promote what coding is all about and how it should be taught in schools.
Teachers need to learn how to integrate coding
Teachers need knowledge and assistance about how to integrate coding into various subjects. One example of this type of support comes from The Finnish National Core Curricula which was implemented into schools in 2016 to emphasizes generic competencies and incorporates coding across school subjects in order to meet the challenges of the future. Although coding is to some extent written into mathematics in the Finnish curriculum, it is also a part of ICT skills in general and should therefore be taught across school subjects.
Basic computer skills are diminishing
As younger students of today are more and more into using mobile devices and not traditional computers, basic computer skills are diminishing, which means that schools should also teach students those skills. Since ICT normally is not a specific school subject, it can be problematic to find time to focus on teaching basic computer skills AND coding.
It was very enlightening for me to take part in the panel discussion in BETT and a great experience learning more about coding in educational institutes internationally and also to share my experiences with colleagues and audience.
Dr. Keijo Sipilä is the head of educational technology in the city of Kaarina, Finland. He received his PhD degree from the University of Lapland in 2013. Educational technology, it’s use and effects on teaching, studying and learning processes have for a long time been of professional and scholar interest for him: his thesis also covered this area from various aspects concentrating to teachers’ and students’ perspective about the use of ICT in education.
Dr. Sipilä is currently leading the largest 1:1 iPad implementation process in Finnish basic education and is also continuing his career as educational technology researcher.