Should coding be integrated into the core curriculum, or should it be an elective or a particular area class all on its own?
Segregation or Integration?
Integration is always the way to go speaking from personal experience.
I was a computer lab teacher (I prefer Digital Literacy Teacher). Students would come to my lab once a week for 35-minutes. After taking attendance, reviewing, and giving that day’s assignment, we were left with about 20-25 minutes. Three times a year, the lab would be used for 3-weeks to do assessment testing (which is a total of 9-weeks – plus a make-up week). So as you can see, I didn’t have much time with the students. I taught word processing, presentations, internet searching, coding, and keyboard skills. For six out of the seven years that I taught computers, our district was not 1:1, nor did the teachers have computer access unless they signed out the one computer cart housed in the media center.
So my class was segregated. The students received about 12 hours of instruction a year. ONLY in my room. When teachers did sign out the computer cart and worked on typing an essay or making a presentation slide deck, they would come to me and say:
“The students are not good at typing.”
“Some of my students don’t know their password.”
“Did you teach them how to do a presentation? They seem to have trouble.”
At first, I was upset with myself. Did I not teach effectively? Were my lessons not engaging? Then I blamed the students. “Why are they not retaining, and why can’t they use the skills from my class in their general education classroom?
After some reflection, I realized that segregating these skills harms the students. So I spoke to my principal and presented my “new” idea.
“I want to meet with the teachers, find out what topics they are covering and integrate them into my classroom.”
I started small and used simple topics. For example, fourth-grade students were learning about New York State geography. So I had my students use Google Earth to locate rivers and mountain ranges, then they used Google Search to gain insight into the history. Finally, they collected the information and created a Google Slide presentation for their teachers. Next, I wanted to take a more significant step. The fourth graders were also learning about the Iroquois Indians, so I had the students work in small groups, and they created an Iroquois village using Minecraft.
I wasn’t on an island anymore; I was part of the community!
So how does all that relate to our topic, “How to integrate coding into the core curriculum.” First, I want you to understand the importance of integrating subjects into your classroom versus segregating. Then, the students will see the value and how these skills apply to other areas of their life.
No matter where you teach or which grade level you teach, you hear the words computational thinking, problem-solving, and critical thinking to name just a few. These are vital skills that coding teaches students. Of course, all subject area teachers K-12 want their students to have these skills because they are essential for any job/career they may go into. However, teaching these skills can be challenging.
If I mention coding to a teacher, I instantly hear:
“Isn’t that for the tech teacher?”
“I don’t have time for that in my curriculum.”
“I don’t know how to code nor have time to learn.”