With Millions of Apps on Everything, Why Would You Learn to Program?

RE@L Logo 60pxWhy, you say, would I ever want to learn how to program?  By the way, to get ourselves up to date here, it’s now called “Coding”, not programing, and it’s not what today’s parents learned in school years ago.

Back then it was called: BASIC, or FORTRAN, or COBOL, or C+, or some variation. Here’s how it worked then: First you analyzed the problem you were trying to solve by using a logical diagram called a flowchart. Say the problem was adding all the whole numbers 1 to 100. Your flowchart would show something like this: “Take the number one and add it to one more than one, and then add one to that, and keep it up till you got to 100. The final sum is your answer.”

Teletype days1Coding this in BASIC programming language worked much the same way: telling the computer to add one more to the sum you got before and keep it up till you got to 100. That’s the old coding. Today the new, streamlined coding uses simple Apps that kids can play with, experiment with, re-do while solving a simple and fun problem…..like getting a furry little critter on your screen to take a short walk and then come back home again.

So, why are schools announcing that teaching students how to code or program makes sense?

AngryBirdToday, many of the instructions for the routines fundamental to instructing computers come prepared – all ready to be connected to other prepared coding routines. Connecting them correctly is the trick. Click on the graphic to the left. The process is called “drop and drag programming.” First find the code modules to make the furry critter on your screen walk-around work; then drop the needed modules into place. Students must understand the logic and the proper sequencing of the prepared code. Only then do they experience success.

Never give up usually gets the problem solved, especially if kids are teaming on their projects. Plus, it’s real world, project-based learning. Both boys and girls love it!


ZukerbergHere’s what noted Tech Scions Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates say about this new coding activity for the classroom: For a sample of what it’s all about, take a look at their sponsored site by clicking on one of their graphics.

Just watch the kids in action to see that there is great value in learning the logic and sequencing needed. If you can “teach” a computer to solve your problem, you truly understand it yourself. Young kids can be taught these skills. Whats great is that the outcome of challenging students to successfully “program the computer” is also great fun.

In the process of coding, kids are:

  • acquiring an increasingly valuable skill,
  • developing an understanding of the technology,
  • gaining valuable preparation for the rapidly emerging world of work.

If that’s not real world learning, what is? Here’s a great quote on coding from a couple of well-known tech leaders:

“It’s time for schools to realize that technology is now a part of our lifestyle. Helping our kids understand how technology works at the ground level and how it can be used to its fullest potential needs to be a building block that’s added to the (K12) educational curriculum. At best, it could get kids interested in tech as a career. At the least, it could equip them to handle more and more technology-related devices that are now part of our lives.”

-Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies Inc.-

Kare11TIMEClick on the graphic to the right to see more of what Mr. Bajarian has to say about coding in the classroom in a recent TIME Magazine piece: Kare11

Want to see what coding looks like in a classroom? Check out this story from our local NBC affiliate, KARE11 TV, on a local urban school that’s already pushing the coding boundaries.


Click on the KARE11 graphic on the left for the rest of the story.

It’s imporant to note that none of this is intended to imply that all kids are headed for careers in technology. It is true, though, that in the new wild world of technology everyone can benefit by knowing a bit about “coding.”

More on this topic is forthcoming soon. So, stay tuned!


Tom King & Dale LaFrenz

Dr. Tom King has served for over 40 years as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Saint Thomas in the School of Education. The Saturn School of Tomorrow, formerly a St. Paul Public School, and his visionary response to educational reform, was a lighthouse on the frontier of school change. Tom was an experienced high school teacher of mathematics, a school administrator, and Director of Technology for the St. Paul MN Public Schools. He is also a member of the RE@L Team. Dr. Dale LaFrenz is Chairman of RE@L and one of the founders of MECC Software who brought “Oregon Trail” to millions of K12 kids everywhere. He has written extensively on the history and evolution of Ed Tech. His work in forging new paths for MECC’S “edutainment" software was instrumental in connecting school-markets, kids, teachers and consumer-markets/kids/parents, and now serves as the new launching pad for RE@L apps and software.

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