My Problem With Teaching To Code

  • tomsmith 

I often come across people who at some point, got the bug for coding (sorry) and signed up to LEARN HOW TO CODE, and then spent weeks learning Python. And all of them expressed a disappointment that it had been really difficult and at the end of the day it hadn’t been worth it.

The thing is, I kind of think it’s Python’s fault. Whilst I’m a massive fan of Python, and spent rougly 14 years where it was a primary tool, and the story went, back in the day that “Google was written in Python, you know”, it’s not a fun tool, it’s an astonishingly capable programming language.

Python is not the tool to teach coding

I have had lots of ridiculously positive feedback from teaching tools with which you can do fun things fast. I tried to write a game in PyGame once. That was a hard year.

For example, with (Livecode Community Edition) you can quickly create a multimedia adventure game and compile it to an .apk file for Android. Amazing!

With Thunkable, which uses Scratch code blocks, we create an app that immediately runs on the students’ phone that speaks whatever you type. Great fun!

With p5js within the hour we create ridiculously fun animations and visualisations, whilst student stealth-learn Javascript.

These are sorts of tools people should be learning when “learning to code”.

With each of them you learn the fundamentals of coding, variable, control structures, repeat loops, lists etc… BUT the results are completely immediate and fun!

There’s an interesting discussion about the whole area of “teaching to code” vs. “teaching to Adobe” which for me boils down to helping students to see the possibilities rather than only the outcomes and deliverables, or end product.

More later…