Coding and life skills
The importance of coding
As coding becomes ever more mainstream, Ronen Even Tzur, thinks that it also has a great deal to offer in the development of ‘softskills’.
Throughout our school lives, we are taught skills and facts; how to read, how to write, history through the ages and the sciences. When it comes to technology, students are learning how to use a variety of apps, Office, Word and Excel. However, times are changing fast and these skills aren’t always at the top of an employer’s list of requirements. Today, most organisations are looking for softer skills when recruiting.
Skills in demand
Employers want their staff to be able to demonstrate a broader range of creative and communication-based skills: flexibility and ability to adapt to the challenges they will face, independent logical thinking, patience, attention to detail, effective problem solving, experimentation, autonomous learning and peer collaboration, to name a few. If we are to effectively prepare our children for their future, we must focus more on developing the life skills they need to master, regardless of the professional path they may choose. Increasingly this will involve technology. But with a packed curriculum filling up every day, how do teachers bring this new range of skills into each child’s learning?
The answer lies in coding.
Coding across the curriculum
In the 21st century, coding doesn’t need to sit as a stand-alone subject. Whether your school is based in a country where computer science in schools is a mandatory part of the curriculum, such as Israel, Singapore, Australia and England, or if you are based in countries such as the US where it remains an elective in most regions, coding is becoming increasingly important. Coding not only gives students a head-start in gaining and understanding one of the most sought after skills in the employment world, but it also equips them with the softer skills required by any number of sectors, from healthcare to fashion and design, to architecture and civil service.
Whatever career path a student chooses to follow, the first skill that is fundamental to the efficiency and effectiveness of all careers, is the ability to plan. A new coding project requires planning. Like any job, if you jump into a coding project too quickly without planning, it will inevitably be fraught with problems. What is more important is that the planning skills that students have to learn in coding are applicable across the curriculum and in most future career paths.
It goes without saying that problem-solving is a fundamental skill in all walks of life and is particularly important for coders. Every challenge a student faces in coding is a problem that needs to be solved. Independent logical thinking and autonomous learning are important throughout our lives. Coding problems continually change, and solving them therefore naturally instils a resilience and perseverance in learners as they test different theories and learn from their mistakes before finding the right solution. Developing problem solving skills from the moment they begin learning to code will be an invaluable skill.
Students learn that the only way to improve their coding skills is to experiment and test new ways to reach their goal; again something that is a critical career skill and important in all walks of life.
Perseverance and Patience
The good but challenging feature of coding is that it’s either written correctly, or it isn’t. If it isn’t written correctly, even if there is just one typo, it won’t execute effectively. Tracking down and fixing the errors demands perseverance. Those who tirelessly search out the problem and fix it, will be rewarded by seeing their fully operational program. Patience and perseverance aren’t just important in coding, they are obviously two of those ‘softer’ skills that are so in demand from today’s employers.
Progression and coding languages
When it comes to coding, attention to detail is another skill that is automatically developed in all participating students. Regardless of the complexity of the language, attention to key details helps students learn to avoid making mistakes. Relatively simple programming languages, such as Scratch and Python, can be used by students who are completely new to programming but are equally well-suited to those in the upper elementary/primary and middle school years. The challenge is how we can support students’ progression onto more complex text-based programs. It is at this point that many students drop out. For this reason, using programs such as Construct 3 helps students and teachers develop more effectively. This programming software combines block-based with text-based programming languages, enabling students to progress at their own pace. The kids really like it because it develops with them. Starting with block-based programming, they can slowly move to create their programs using the text-based side of Construct 3. For schools wanting to start by trying out a very functional development software, it is also free of charge until you want to move on to a fully functional version.
Coding and cross-curricular learning
Coding therefore involves a great combination of the fundamental soft skills that employees have high on their candidate criteria list. For those schools concerned about how to fit coding into an already packed curriculum, coding not only represents the perfect combination of all these fundamental skills, but also provides the perfect teaching tool to engage today’s students in cross-curricular learning. For these reasons it should not be taught as a separate subject but as part of the whole broad curriculum.
Take history as an example. Many students shy away from this subject as they struggle to understand the benefits of remembering all the dates and facts from the past when it doesn’t apply to their own lives. However, when the class activity involves designing a game to factually demonstrate the Battle of Gettysburg or the Battle of Agincourt or create an animated map to outline the American Civil War or World War II, the students immediately become excited and motivated to learn and understand it, focusing more on understanding the mechanics, cause and effect rather than just the dry facts.
Alternatively in mathematics, elementary/primary aged students may be able to work on a game to demonstrate the remaining number of biscuits a dog has as he eats them or shares them amongst other dogs.
Coding is here to stay and will inevitably be a part of everyone’s lives. It’s now being considered as important as learning English or maths in schools; something that every child should know about. It’s not about turning every student into the developer or coder of tomorrow. At Kids Life Skills we work with schools to help them to implement a cross curricular approach to developing students’ softer and digital skills and in turn, prepare them for a bright and successful future.
Ronen Even Tzur is the founder of the Luxembourg based non-profit educational organization Kids Life Skills.
He is a veteran FinTech entrepreneur with vast experience in the field of algorithmic trading and trading strategies. Game theory, solving puzzles and logical challenges are some of his hobbies. In 2018 he established ‘Kids Life Skills’ in Luxembourg.
All support images kindly provided by Kids Life Skills