Thing 17: Coding and Coding Tools

"This Is a Card Puncher, an Integral Part of the Tabulation System Used by the United States Census Bureau to Compile the Thousands of Facts Gathered by the Bureau."

“This Is a Card Puncher, an Integral Part of the Tabulation System Used by the United States Census Bureau to Compile the Thousands of Facts Gathered by the Bureau.” Census Machines (Record Group 29). Department of Commerce. Bureau of the Census. Circa 1950. No known copyright restrictions.

I remember my first introduction to computer programming. I was taking an undergraduate introduction to computer course. It was the early 1980’s. Computers were only seen in print or on TV. Personal computers, if you had access to one, were difficult to use. There was not Internet or email, no mouse or graphical user interface. Computers were found only at universities or places like NASA, or in science fiction stories.

As part of this course, we learned some BASIC programming using Commodore 64 and saving our programs on audio cassette tapes. We learned about variables, arrays, loops, and conditional statements. Had I been able to see the future at that time, I probably would have changed my major from management to computer science.

My next exposure to coding was when I learned html in the early 1990’s using a text editor. I was soon dabbling around with some JavaScript, later some XML, and most recently with some RSS. I was self-taught and I knew enough to do what I wanted to do. By no means was I an expert nor did I want to be, yet I found having some background knowledge in coding to be valuable as a librarian.

In late winter of 2013, I began developing a mobile technologies course for High School students. I intended to introduce my students to concepts of information literacy, media literacy, and computer science. If I could create a curriculum integrating these topics, my students would be more successful in school and perhaps would discover potential career paths.

I had clear ideas of the information and media literacy aspects of this curriculum, I knew I wanted to do something with coding. While I could teach some HTML, this alone would not provide the ideal experience for my students. I’ve been incubating on this problem without the development of meaningful ideas until I the codeacademy app (http://www.codecademy.com).

This interactive app is designed to introduce students some of the various aspects of coding that had originally hooked me. It demonstrates that coding relates to computer programing, app creating, and creating web pages. It provides students with enough information so that my students will know if computer science might be something they would like to further explore in college.

Coding is something that should be taught in schools. Just like music and the arts, it teaches students about thinking and learning. Like math and literature, it teaches students about problem solving. These are valuable, cross-disciplinary skills that they will indeed find useful as productive citizens in society.

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