Computing has become a big part of the core curriculum in recent years, and anyone from government officials to celebrities are touting the idea that everyone should learn to code. For something that seems so complex and niche, can this really be the case?
When we think about what coding is, for many of us, the stock image of a computer screen filled edge to edge with text springs to mind. While that is not an entirely inaccurate depiction, coding is so much more. Coding is used to design: websites, video games and smartphone apps are created with coding, and increasingly, homes, cars and offices will be run using codes. Coding is used to build: engineers of all kinds are now using coding to test new products and solve technological malfunctions. Coding is used in science, and not just computer science: biologists, psychologists and chemists are using computer programmes to create simulations of the real world for experiments.
The fact that coding has so many non-traditional applications lends itself to cross-curricular learning, in the same way that lessons on computers have historically been blended with projects in other subjects, such as learning to use PowerPoint to create a social studies presentation. Teachers who have implemented coding lessons have observed multiple “lightbulb moments” within numeracy and sentence structure after pupils learn to think computationally.
Despite these crossovers, while some teachers have put their analytically-minded children into extracurricular coding clubs, there are no doubt others who think it is not for them.
So who is coding for?
Let’s think about it this way: is playing on sports teams, or starring in a school play for everyone? Assuredly not. Not everyone is going to be interested in it, not everyone is going to intuitively understand or excel at it, but it teaches key life skills: teamwork, problem-solving and self-confidence, and even helps children discover previously unknown talents.
The same is true of coding. By including coding in curriculums and classrooms, we are not pushing for all children to grow up to become coders, but rather encouraging all children to be creative and resilient problem-solvers.
Nurturing these skills is a big reason why many education providers have shifted their focus to include coding. Programmes aimed at both primary and secondary pupils give a high-level introduction to software and how computers work, through hands-on activities. The aim is to stoke pupils’ curiosity and to physically put the tools in their hands so they can see how accessible this skill is. Teachers at Penpol Primary, a school in Cornwall using hands-on resources including LEGO Education’s WeDo 2.0 in their classrooms, said that they have seen improvements in everything from fine motor skills to time management.
Teachers have also commented that including coding in the curriculum has given some students the opportunity to spread their wings. Sarah Clark, a teacher at Queen Anne High School in Dunfermline, said that the children who excel at coding are not necessarily the ones you would expect, and that some of the kids who had struggled socially in the past developed their communication and problem-solving skills by working in teams of two or three on these projects.
These multidimensional projects provide opportunities for all children to build on their strengths. Working in groups with limited direction from teachers allows students to self-delegate tasks; some will be drawn to the physical designing, while others will be keen to present the final result. It is this dynamism that Sarah says has boosted students’ confidence and improved their integration within the school community.
Jacob Woolcock, a teacher from Penpol Primary, summed up his experience by saying: “I think you have to cast aside your assumptions in order to give the children the greatest opportunity to flourish - the results will undoubtedly surprise you!”
The Coded Future
In addition to coding being a way to instil skills in children from a young age, the inclusion of coding in the curriculum is very forward thinking. It has been said that in the not-so-distant future, all companies who want to disrupt the market (or even to keep up with the technology-focused world) need to turn every department into an IT department.
So while it may be a bit premature for everyone currently in the workforce to rush to join coding boot camps, instilling a knowledge and awareness of programming languages - and technology in general - from a young age will prime the next generation for the workforce that they will certainly be entering.
Coding is something that can be easily applied across the curriculum. Gemma Sanderson, a teacher from Kirkton of Largo Primary in Fife, said that in order to teach coding, “you don’t need to be an expert, just give one or two hours of investment in time.”
The bottom line is that coding is not as complex and niche as you may have thought. And in order to keep up with the change of pace within our world today, it is a conversation all children should get involved in from an early age.
To find out more on how to bring coding to your classroom – visit