With technology changing at such a rapid rate, teachers are constantly asking themselves, “How can we, as educators, equip today’s students with the knowledge and skill set they will need to solve the problems of tomorrow?” I am a firm believer that computer programming is part of the answer to this question. Think of it this way: by the time today’s students enter the workforce, the technology they will be using could look drastically different than it does today. By teaching them to program, we are teaching them to think about how technology works, and while doing so, they are learning valuable skills such as problem solving, creativity, and critical thinking. With this deeper understanding of technology and these valuable skills, students will not just be consumers of technology, but will be actively directing how computers are used in the future.
One of the ways Rowntree is helping to prepare students for the future is introducing computers and programming concepts to students at a young age. At Rowntree, children as young as Grade One begin programming robots in one of our many after-school clubs, and even some of our Kindergarten students have had an introduction to programming in class. Additionally, programming is embedded in the Computer curriculum starting in Grade Two. At this grade level, students are introduced to fundamental computer programming principles and use these concepts with websites like code.org to bring some of their favourite animated characters to life. It never ceases to amaze me to see how enthusiastic and excited students become while learning to program!
Progressing through the grade levels, students continue to build on their programming knowledge and begin to explore more complex problems using visual and event-driven programming languages. This learning culminates in Grades 7 and 8 as students design, develop, and beta-test their very own computer games. Throughout this entire process, students are learning how to think logically, use their analytical and critical- thinking skills, all while learning to communicate and collaborate with others.
As educators, we are constantly striving to prepare our students for the “real world” by teaching them the basics: reading, writing, and arithmetic. In addition to the basics, there are also the less tangible skills that computer programming can help to develop: skills that will allow students to understand and solve complex, multi-faceted problems using creative and innovative solutions. With these skills, we can ensure that our students will be well equipped to handle challenges and opportunities that they can’t even imagine yet, and that they are prepared for future success!