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Why Schools Have to Introduce Students to Programming (3 Steps to Get Started)

by Ellen Plunkett on November 4, 2014


Some Countries are Adding This Vital Skill Set to the Curriculum in Their Schools, but Many Are Lagging

As technology becomes more prevalent, it is more and more important to educate our children in the field of computer science. According to, 90 percent of U.S. schools are not teaching any computer science in their curriculum. It is estimated that over the next ten years there will be 1.4 million computer science jobs created in the U.S., with only 400,000 qualified professionals to fill them. A shortage of 1 million people in a field that is of such importance to all of us should be a sign that we should start preparing our future for the jobs that we need filled.

pair_programmingFall 2011 Student Hackathon Coding from @matylda. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Early Adopters Ahead of the Game

Many countries across the world will experience the growth in demand for technology skills. Some have already started to implement some type of coding or computer science learning. Early adopters include Israel, New Zealand, and Germany. Recently Australia, Denmark, and, about a year ago, the United Kingdom all adopted some type of initiative to teach young students how to code. September 2014 marked the start of the U.K. initiative to teach every student aged 5-16 to code. The U.K. is the first country to implement a focus on coding on a national level with its Year of Code campaign.

Step 1 – Raise Administrator’s Awareness

The first step in getting administrators implementing more computer science courses into their curriculum is to show them that there is a need for students to learn to code. Getting young children to understand how computers work can go a long way in expanding the worlds view on technology. Much like how we teach math to show students how to follow rules, discover relationships between two variables, problem solve, and to organize thoughts; we can apply these same techniques when teaching coding. In a sense, coding can become part of the math subject and teachers can use both math and coding to teach students important lessons.

Step 2 – Help Teachers Understand the Benefits

Many educators are intimidated by programming and that may be one of the reasons so few classrooms are beginning to teach this subject. Many people are intimidated by coding and computer science because they don’t understand it, which is the case in everything so there really is no reason to be intimidated. Programming can help students to develop both math and problem solving skills at a young age. When learning to code, students identify variables, apply logic, develop algorithmic functions, articulate hypotheses, apply trial-and-error experimentation, and learn many other strategies.

There needs to be a move toward teaching our teachers to code and getting them to better understand the field of computer science before we start to teach our youth about how computers work. We are seeing this with how the U.K. is approaching the Year of Code campaign. There has been a large amount of funding over the past year to help train primary and secondary education teachers how to code.

Step 3 – Get Started

The hour of code initiative was highly successful in getting students to try coding all over the world. Teachers can follow this by incorporating a coding lesson at least once a week into the curriculum by combining it with math lessons. The good news is that there are a ton of resources for teaching students to code at all ages! Some of the most popular resources that help to teach students programming are:

  • Tynker Games offers age appropriate games to teach elementary students coding concepts.
  • Hopscotch is a free iPad app for ages 8 and up that offers challenges to students via coding.
  • Kodu is a programming tool that is easy to use and allows users to create simple games. It also uses a unique math curriculum to help students learn.
  • LEGO’s Mindstorms is also another easy programming tool for students that allows them to create and command robots.

The field of computer science will continue to grow far into the future. Hopefully it is only a matter of time before coding and computer science become the norm in our school systems, but that won’t be the case if we don’t start taking action now.

What will you do to help raise the awareness of the need to incorporate coding into our schools curricula?

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Industry Players Collaborate to Take Teaching and Learning About Programming to the Next Level
Study Shows 21st Century Skill Development Clearly Linked to Career Success
Book Review – Best Practices for Teaching with Emerging Technologies




Ellen Plunkett works with Eastern Michigan University to raise awareness about the College of Education. She has always loved teaching and loves finding new ways to incorporate technology into the classroom while educating young students. Educating people, not just on new technology, but on how technology works is something that she really enjoys.

If you are interested in learning more about the field of education and technology, please visit Eastern Michigan University's College of Education. Eastern Michigan University is located in Ypsilanti, Michigan 35 miles west of Detroit. EMU is comprised of seven colleges, including the College of Education and College of Technology, and enrolls more than 23,000 students.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Vickie Olson December 7, 2014 at 2:57 am

I don’t believe it’s ever to early to give children the opportunity to learn the basics of computers, coding, and programming. Younger children usually aren’t intimidated by learning something new and enjoy working with computers. I also agree that the problem is where will we fit it into our school day?

Tammy DeLange November 23, 2014 at 10:30 pm

Children are always interested in knowing how things work. Learning to code will be a part of their future and they will have the knowledge needed to apply many strategies.
I appreciate that popular resources are shared for us to try out before introducing to our students.

Kelly Walsh November 20, 2014 at 5:46 am

Thanks Jane and Theresa – both good points! I totally agree that teachers must be passionate about the subjects they teach if they are to teach them well and inspire students to learn.

As for the level at which to teach programming skills, there are fun methodologies to expose students to relevant skills at a young age while also reinforcing other concepts – this was a fundamental part of Seymour Papert’s work with Logo decades ago (learn more here: More traditional programming skills are definitely better suited for later grades.

Jane Olson November 19, 2014 at 3:31 pm

It is important, but maybe best taught by someone trained in this and passionate about it….and the elementary trained teacher can continue to teach the very important basic skills necessary for a good foundation to learning.

Theresa Jerke November 19, 2014 at 1:54 pm

I do agree that programming/coding is an important part of the future. I am concerned that it may be more applicable in Middle School and High School rather than at the elementary level. At the elementary level I believe it is important to expose students to the information and possibly give them activities they can do on there own if they are interested.

Jan Small November 14, 2014 at 3:35 pm

I, also agree with most of the article, as the field of computer science is an important part of the future.

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