Let's face it, we all should be coders now

9th March 2012 at 00:00

All teachers should have a try at computer programming. Extra-ordinarily, this was the view of TES as early as 1969, when punch cards were needed to input data and the idea that consumers would each own personal computers must have seemed a mad fantasy.

"All teachers ... have had pupils for whom it was necessary to spell out instructions in great detail, small steps at a time, leaving no loose ends," the newspaper explained. "Programming is very much like this."

The logical nature of programming is why even some traditionalists can appreciate its intellectual merit. Yet coding must also be seen as a creative art. The mathematician Conrad Wolfram summed this up neatly when he told the Learning Without Frontiers conference this year that "programming is to maths what composition is to English".

At the same event the programmer Jaron Lanier argued that we should not passively accept the restrictions placed on us by commercial computer programs. This is another argument for teaching pupils to code: to make them less docile consumers of technology, and more citizens who know how to tinker and create.

If any of them take programming further and gain employment in the UK's creative digital industries, well, that is just a bonus.

Clearly, programming will be a popular option to fill the gap from September, when schools will continue to have compulsory ICT but will be free to decide on the curriculum themselves. But it would be a mistake just to leave coding to maths teachers or ICT staff (the keenest of whom are gathering this weekend for the annual conference of their professional association NAACE). Having a quick play with simple-to-use systems such as Scratch or Kodu shows the potential for many subjects, from music to history.

So it is worth repeating the argument TES made about programming in 1969 and in the 1980s and 1990s, over and over again. Luckily, those who grew up with Basic on the BBC Micro may recall the shortcut:

10 PRINT "ALL TEACHERS SHOULD TRY THIS"

20 GOTO 10

RUN

Michael Shaw is editor of TESpro

michael.shaw@tes.co.uk @mrmichaelshaw.

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number

Comments

The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now