Five Easy Ways to Teach Your Students to Think Like a Coder
Computer languages are the future, with programming skills growing 50% faster than the market overall and offering an excellent way for the workforce of the future to work a creative job that requires only an internet connection.
Best of all, the basics of coding can be taught from an early age, helping to provide the minds of the future with a decent understanding of how programming works. After all, even if they don’t become developers, it’ll come in useful in a range of other job roles and will also give them a more thorough understanding of how the world works. And after all, isn’t that the whole point of teaching?
Let’s take a look at just five of the easiest – and most effective! – ways to teach your students to think like a coder.
1. Solve problems together
Too many teachers simply stand up and write things on a blackboard or hand out textbooks and leave the kids to read through them. Others teach the curriculum and focus on getting their pupils through the exams, but that doesn’t necessarily teach them how to practically apply their problem-solving skills to come up with a solution.
This type of problem-solving is essential for programmers throughout the entire process, whether they’re creating a new piece of software or whether they’re debugging something ahead of its launch. There are plenty of problem-solving activities out there that you can use in the classroom, and they don’t all have to take place in front of a computer keyboard. In fact, if you can find ways to take the kids out of the classroom or to apply their brains to real world problems, you can bring problem-solving to life and make them more engaged with the subject matter.
2. Develop their love of language
Studies have shown an unsurprising link between learning a programming language and learning a foreign language, with a fMRI study of computer science student brains finding that their brains’ language centres were activated when they were reading the source code. Accordingly, by simply teaching students the basics of foreign languages or by encouraging them to read and write more to improve their linguistic abilities, you might also be preparing their brains to learn to code. Part of this could be because like real languages, programming languages have their own specific rules of grammar and punctuation, and it’s easy to see how the two are related.
Kevin Ransome, who works as a writer at writing service, confirms the link between programming languages and languages as a whole by explaining that before becoming a writer, he studied web development. He adds, “Musicians also tend to make good coders for some reason, possibly because music follows a set of rules in the form of notes and scales. I’ve also found listening to music helps me to feel more creative, whether I’m building a web page or writing an essay.”
3. Get out into the real world
We already covered this to some extent in the first tip, when we recommended heading out into the real world to bring lessons to life. But solving problems in the real world is one thing, and moving your programming efforts into the real world is something else entirely.
That’s why it’s a good idea to play around with the Raspberry Pi or the Arduino Microcontroller Kit so that the students can start to apply their programming to real-world objects. If that’s out of the question, another alternative is to use virtual and/or augmented reality, although this can quickly become expensive if you have to start paying for devices.
4. Contact local startups
Another way of going out into the real world is to approach a local company – preferably a tech startup or a web development firm – and ask if they’d mind meeting your pupils and hosting a demonstration. You might be wondering why anybody would give up their time to talk to your students, but the truth is that most entrepreneurs are more than happy to talk about their work. In fact, they’ll go out of their way to talk the ear off anyone who’ll listen. Plus even if they say no, it’s no biggie – you can just approach one of their local rivals instead. It’s a great way to inspire your students, too.
5. Move fast and break things
This is the unofficial mantra at Facebook, and there’s a reason for that. Ultimately, coding is all about playing with things and having the courage to make mistakes, and it’s a good idea to encourage this mentality amongst your pupils. You can do this by working on exercises where there are no wrong answers and by celebrating mistakes and failures because of the lessons that they teach. Remember that as fast as our world seems to move right now, it’s going to be even faster for the next generation. If you don’t teach your pupils to move fast and break things then they’ll get left behind.
The future is coming and it won’t wait for you. That’s why you have a responsibility to both yourself and to your students to prepare for it. Teaching students the basics of coding now is like teaching students to touch type in the 1990s – it will go on to become something that many employers simply expect, especially in white collar jobs.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be difficult to get started and that there are plenty of resources out there to help. Better still, kids love it – especially if you can bring the subject to life, such as by tapping into their love of Minecraft. So go ahead – what are you waiting for?
Breaking NEWS about the Foos: codeSpark Academy is happy to announce its newest Hour of CodeTM activity: Snoopy Snow Brawl! Kid-coders around the world will be able to participate in this free coding activity for Code.org’s annual Hour of CodeTM event!
Justin is a teacher and blogger from Leicester, UK. When not teaching his little students and rooting for Leicester FC, he loves to share his thoughts and opinions about education, writing and blogging with other people on different blogs and forums. Currently, he is working as an editor at Bestdissertation. You could follow Justin on Facebook and Twitter.