5 ways to engage students in real coding this summer (hint: it’s not by playing Minecraft)

[I just finished a week working with educators and students at the STEAM Innovation Summer Institute at the South Fayette School District. It was exciting to see kids teaching a Python workshop and other students and adults writing their own code to control Raspberry Pi, Hummingbird, and drone projects. Find out from a computer expert in this eSchool News article what are some key considerations for coding in the classroom.]

June 24th, 2016
Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

A coding expert shares how to get students truly invested in computer science that goes beyond drag and drop

Teaching students how to code software is one of the most valuable skills you can give them, and will virtually guarantee them employment once they’re in the workforce. According to the US Department of Labor, the median pay for a software developer in 2015 was $100,690, and the growth in available positions is expected to be 17 percent during the period 2014-2024 (more than twice the average growth rate across all occupations).

Many schools are offering coding courses over the summer. I’ve spent the last two years building a platform that makes learning to code software as easy as playing a game so I’ve learned a thing or two about how to engage students in coding. Here’s some advice for choosing the right learning platform for your community:

Make sure it’s age-appropriate and will engage children and teens.

Many of these courses were designed for adults, and even if a child is off-the-charts intelligent, he/she might be bored if the course is all coding and no fun. Courses for kids should incorporate some element of gamification to keep them engaged. Look for courses that were designed specifically for children and teens.

Students should be writing actual code, not just dragging and dropping.

Programs like Scratch are a good method for very young children (K-2), but within a few hours becomes boring for older children, who won’t learn very much. To keep kids engaged, they need to start writing real code very quickly.

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