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Coding for Elementary Students: A Growing Trend?

Within the next few years, all preK-12 students in San Francisco public schools will be learning computer science, as I wrote recently.

Chicago also has a plan in place for making computer science a core subject starting in kindergarten. 

After the San Francisco story ran, I received this tweet:


The Avondale Elementary school system, a small district outside Phoenix, started teaching all its K-8 students computer programming last year. Smith, who led the coding initiative until this year, wrote in an email that Avondale is the "first primary grades district in AZ (and possibly the U.S.) to teach all students to code as part of their required curriculum." Avondale's students are largely Hispanic and a majority receive free-and-reduced lunch (an indicator of poverty).

In a video promoting the district's coding efforts, Smith says that "learning how to program a computer, it teaches you how to think. ... It also builds grit and those problem-solving skills."

The program so far seems to be getting mixed reviews from students, according to the survey results that Smith sent. Only about a third of students surveyed in the district said they were interested in doing more coding classes (another third said they were neutral on it).

Coding, as the experts will tell you, is just one slice of computer science. But it's also a slice that many teachers don't know how to do. The Avondale district is using free, self-paced online programs, such as Khan Academy's and those featured on Code.org, to teach its courses. (You can find the curriculum Smith created here.)

There's still plenty of controversy, though, on whether coding should be taught at all in schools, and especially at the elementary level. Some say coding is quickly becoming a necessary skill, and that starting early is the only way to level the playing field for all students. Others say the early years should be devoted to more foundational reading and math skills. 

I'd like to hear from other elementary educators on this. Is your district making coding a priority? Are you? Do you think this is a good use of instructional time for young students? 


Related stories:


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