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5 things coding teaches the youngest learners

By Julie Randles
October 6, 2016
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One day soon, computer science will be a required course at all U.S. high schools. That concept has school technology associate Trish Cloud thinking about how to prepare even her youngest learners for their future.

“If I can show K-5 students that coding is fun, that they will learn a lot and that it will help them with other subjects, then when they get to high school, they will be ready to embrace computer science,” says Cloud, who works at Grand Oak Elementary in Huntersville, North Carolina. “Most people think of computer science as a heady subject, but the basics are used every day – like thinking logically and doing things in a sequence.”

Even kindergartners can grasp them. That’s why Clouds supports teaching coding – one aspect of computer science – to the youngest learners.

Here are five skills Cloud says elementary students gain from coding:

Open-mindedness. Students must be open to new ideas and new ways of doing things to learn foundational coding skills. Why? Each platform, be it Kodable or Lightbot, teaches coding skills differently. Students might think they know what to do, and then a new platform demonstrates a different approach.
Risk-taking. When students are coding, they are going to make mistakes. It’s a given. Students learn early on they have to be brave, take risks and try – even if they fail. “Once you fail, you see where you went wrong and you can go back and fix it and move on to the next level,” Cloud says.

Collaboration. Being collaborative leads to coding success, especially when it comes to solving the puzzles assorted platforms use to teach coding. “You can solve puzzles in various ways. Sometimes your neighbor may have a better idea than you do,” says Cloud.

Creativity. Many kids’ coding platforms, like Fuze, let students create their own games. Just when you thought it was about solving puzzles, there’s an opportunity to design a learning artifact.

Communication. Stuck? Not getting anywhere? In order to explain the problem they’ve run into, students have to be able to explain it to their teacher or a classmate. Conversely, if a student is helping someone else, they need to be able to clearly explain how to make the proper fix.  

Elementary teachers interested in grade-appropriate programs to help students get started with coding can watch a recording of Cloud's ISTE Professional Learning Series webinar “Coding Clubs for Elementary Students,” Participants will:

  • Hear why it’s important to teach computer science to young learners.
  • Find out about coding apps and programs appropriate elementary students.
  • Learn how to stretch coding into other learning experiences like makerspaces or robotics.

ISTE members can access ISTE Professional Learning Series webinars including "Coding Clubs for Elementary Students" at any time. Not a member? Join ISTE today or click the button below to try out ISTE member resources free for a limited time.