Coding: The Everlasting Gobstopper

Everlasting GobstopperWilly Wonka’s Everlasting Gobstopper: The candy that changed color and flavor but never got any smaller. A miracle for kids everywhere! The Everlasting Gobstopper promised to revolutionize the world for kids: An accomplishment never to be matched again! …Until the arrival of computer coding in schools.

“OK, OK. We get it,” you nod. You’ve heard the hype about coding in schools. Tech luminaries extol it endlessly, The White House is pushing initiatives for it, startups with cutesy names keep sending you emails about it (#sorrynotsorry), and even The Simpsons recently poked fun at the movement. Not since Wonka’s Everlasting Gobstopper have we heard so much hullabaloo. We are at peak hullabaloo.

But, why the hullabaloo? What exactly is coding and why does it belong in our schools?

At face value, coding is the skill needed for programming computers, but really it’s much more than that. It requires learning a new form of grammar. It’s used to solve problems in a modern way, by completing projects and working as a team. It provides the compass for exploring math and science much in the same way the written word unlocks the truths of history. Given the pervasiveness of computers in the sciences now, you might say that coding is “the language of science exploration”.

One reason the debate over whether to bring coding into schools gets confusing, though, is that coding is both a skill and a literacy. Coding is largely still seen more simply as a skill used directly by professionals in STEM fields, but coding literacy is becoming increasingly crucial for all professions as computers rapidly encroach into fields outside of the sciences. That is to say, adults in nearly any line of work will need to understand how to write and understand a little code from time to time. The other day my car mechanic told me that almost everything he does now involves computers, so he’s learning to write testing macros in code. At my doctor’s office she and her staff write code to manage medical records. The examples of coding’s reach are endless, and growing.

What’s not to like about all the hoopla when you think about it that way, right?!

Well, some people are still not convinced coding needs to be taught in schools as more than an elective. The other camp (us) is making a ruckus because coding has for too long been considered just a skill and thus kept in after-school clubs and camps for the students most interested in it. But, remember, coding is not just a skill; it’s also a literacy. It is the language of science exploration. Relegation to after-school hours does students a real disservice. The modern world demands coding literacy; therefore, coding belongs in school. It’s essential that we prepare our younger generations to speak the language of their future.

So that’s it. That’s the whole brouhaha in a nutshell!

Guess it turns out coding is more than the next Everlasting Gobstopper revolution, and thank goodness! Things ended quite badly for the children who attempted to steal one for themselves (and for Slugworth). On the contrary, coding is meant to be shared with bright young minds in schools the whole world over.

Ready to start coding at your school? Get going with Codesters today.

Codesters Team presented at Teachers College EdLabs

Edlab presentation

On Wednesday, September 16th, Gordon Smith and the Codesters team presented at Teachers College EdLabs.

Our talk elicited many interesting comments, such as one from user jagnitti (@02:59): With that logic, it’s also important for all adults to learn coding, too, or else get squeezed out of the job market by these young whippersnappers!

Other users, such as tzaffi (@05:30) philosophized: In principle, anything you can do with a regular programming language can be done with a block language as well. But….since in industry, standard text based programming is still standard, it makes sense to expose students to both kinds of programming. 

Have a look at the vialogue and feel free to drop us a comment.

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Codesters at PyGotham Conference

Hi, I am one of the curriculum developers at Codesters. I wanted to share a talk that I gave at PyGotham 2015. PyGotham is New York City’s own Python language conference. It was an exciting opportunity to become better at programming and to participate in the thriving Python community.

IMG_20150815_112300This talk covers the why and the how of teaching text-based coding, particularly Python at the Middle School level. It draws on my experience teaching in mixed-ability classrooms, some of my work as a graduate student, and some of our curriculum features at Codesters. People who use and contribute to Python are dedicated to giving back through education and the development of open-source resources; so the talk was well received.

My talk was during the first session of the first day of the conference and it opened up a discussion that was ongoing on twitter and in between sessions. Several of the attendees I spoke with volunteer their time to contribute to open-source education projects or work for local Girls Who Code programs in addition to their jobs as developers. IMG_20150815_112327I also spoke with two dedicated teachers from The Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria and the Bronx Academy for Software Engineering. Other speakers continued the conversation on and off the stage. Keynote speaker, Jessica McKellar, discussed the importance of Python as an education language at all levels. Nick Coghlan, also a keynote speaker, talked about making open source projects successful including those dedicated to education.

At Codesters we are excited to participate in active programming and education communities. If you want to get involved or know of people or organizations we should be aware of, tweet at us @icodeinschool. You can also tweet me directly @teach_python.

Meg Ray
Curriculum Developer at Codesters
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Inspiring Leadership on Coding in NYC Schools

On Friday, in an op ed in the NY Daily News, New York City’s schools chancellor Carmen Fariña made a strong case for teaching coding in schools. She argues that if we want students to “go out into the world knowing they can do anything” then it is crucial to teach them STEM skills, particularly coding. She goes on to say, “we’re training the next generation of citizens and our future workforce.”

Chancellor Fariña believes that a key to success is “bringing together our public and private sectors to create more STEM programs available to students of all ages” and mentions three programs supported by AT&T that partner with DOE: the Software Engineering Pilot (“SEP”), Girls Who Code, and Pathfinders. We wholeheartedly agree and are proud to partner with all three of these excellent programs. Codesters hosts interns from Pathfinders and provides our platform and coding curriculum to SEP schools and to Girls Who Code clubs across the US.

Chancellor Fariña is joined by other city leaders, prominent institutions, and corporations in the work to expand coding in schools. The ​New York City Foundation for Computer Science (“CSNYC”), started by venture capitalist Fred Wilson, funds programs such as SEP and district schools such as the Academy for Software ​for Software Engineering (“AFSE”). CSNYC has already helped bring coding education to 100 schools as part of its mission to “to ensure that all of New York City’s 1.1 million public school students have access to a high-quality computer science education”. Microsoft, together with CSNYC, support the TEALS program that brings volunteer software engineers into city public high schools to teach coding. Google has launched CSFirst, creating new after-school coding clubs across the city. And under the leadership of Senior Director of K-12 education, Diane Levitt, the city’s investment in Cornell Tech is already producing tangible outcomes in growing coding programs in the city’s public schools.

​Working directly with, and listening to, local communities in neighborhoods across the city will be key to the success of these efforts. In Brooklyn, ​Borough​ President Eric Adams is collaborating with CEC members, community leaders, principals, ​teachers, and parents​ on a campaign to make Brooklyn the first of the boroughs to offer coding in every school, which an emphasis on helping schools with less economically less advantaged communities.​ Adams sees that a critical success factor to these efforts to expand coding in schools will be the input, buy-in, and support of all New Yorkers.

​What all these leaders recognize is​ that getting coding into schools is a ​means to ​ensuring that all students have access to opportunities in our future economy. Fariña’s statements and these various city and local initiatives are signs that New York City​ is arriving at the critical moment when we rise to the challenge of getting coding into schools. The Codesters team is excited to be part of the movement and I am personally inspired by the leadership I am witnessing.

Gordon Smith
Head Codester
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Codesters at ISTE Conference

Codesters just returned from our first ISTE conference. Twenty hours of exhibiting is exhausting, but it is also inspiring. Teachers, school librarians, school and district technology coordinators, principals, technology trainers, and district representatives are actively working to bring programming into classrooms across the globe. Seeing attendee after attendee get so excited for our platform and curriculum crystallized for me what makes us different.

Meg Ray, of the Codesters Team, demonstrating how our platform works.
Meg Ray, of the Codesters Team, demonstrating how our platform works.

A teacher from a school in California for students who are at risk of dropping out was happy that we teach Python, a professional programming language. He explained to me that he wants to use Codesters because his students need to go beyond block-based languages so that they have more opportunities open to them in life. A teacher from Virginia, told me that the district wants all of her 6th graders to start learning code. She wants to use Codesters because she found four ways that the drag-and-drop toolkit will allow her to differentiate in her mixed-ability classroom, just during our short demo.

ISTE is a reminder of just how passionate our team is about making programming accessible to all middle school students! School’s out for teachers and

students, and we are busy gearing up for a school year full of code.


Check out our Facebook page for more pictures.

You can also see more highlights at ISTE Highlights