The Choice To Code

I’ve continued to think a lot about coding since EdCamp Hamilton on Saturday. The first session that I attended was a coding one, and the conversation from it continued out into the hallway thanks to the wonderful, Margot Roi. I think that it was our talk that helped me make sense of my thoughts.

  • I love how coding allows for thinking and problem solving.
  • I love how students take more ownership of their learning through coding: creating in ways that work for them.
  • I love the connections to curriculum. (I don’t think that I fully saw these connections before for primary students, but conversations with Peter Skillen and Brenda Sherry at EdCamp helped me understand these links. It all begins with looking at the curriculum as a “landscape,” and really knowing the expectations. This leads to better seeing the connections. Thanks Peter and Brenda!)
  • I love how coding allows different students to emerge as leaders.


But I don’t think that coding is for everybody. Ultimately, we want students to understand these coding programs, so that they can make the choice to use them if/when they think they might be the best option. I think “student choice” has to outweigh the use of any one program though. 

  • Sometimes students need to physically manipulate the objects to understand the concept better and/or demonstrate their learning.
  • Sometimes students might think that a different program or tool is better for sharing their learning.
  • Sometimes students might think that a different program or tool might appeal more and/or work better for their given audience. 
  • Sometimes students really need to rely on their strengths: this may be coding or this may be something else.

I always think that my biggest job — my greatest goal — as a teacher is to ensure that all of my students meet with success. Coding may be what a student needs to meet with this success, or it may be what prevents this success. Choice makes coding an option, but not the only oneHow do you provide this choice in the classroom? What impact do you see for students? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


8 thoughts on “The Choice To Code

  1. I usually have a coding unit using Scratch in my 3/4 class. At the beginning, I give them challenges to solve that get progressively harder and require them to use different commands and features. Then, as a final project I have them make a simple maze game. When finished we allow the rest of the school to come to the class to play video games!
    Some of the student use their skills and build on them at other points in the year, and some are glad that we are moving on. Doing a unit like this gives all the students an opportunity to acquire some skills, have success in building a program, and see if they like it.

    • Thanks for your comment, Dan, and sharing what you do. Your Scratch unit sounds interesting. Are there any that can’t create a maze using Scratch? If so, what are the options for them? Since coding is not a curriculum expectation, but a program to support the delivery of the curriculum, I wonder more about options for those students that struggle. I’d love to hear your thoughts!


  2. I appreciate your reflection, Aviva. I think all students should be exposed to coding, and I believe all students should give it a try. But it’s just one way to problem solve and demonstrate learning. If coding becomes THE way we learn math, then we are alienating the students who have strengths in areas other than coding. Just as I would challenge a teacher who demands that students show their learning in a particular subject area through writing most of the time, I would challenge a teacher who primarily uses coding to show learning. Also, since coding is not (yet) in the curriculum, I feel students who have difficulty showing learning in, say, math, through coding MUST be given another option. We can’t determine whether or not a child understands a concept if we give them only one way to demonstrate that learning.

    • Thanks Sharon! I think that you sum up my thinking so well. I’d love to know other options that teachers give when coding is one of the options. Having “choice” is so valuable, and really helps us see what content students understand.


  3. Aviva,
    The feeling is SO mutual! It was wonderful to see you at #edcampham and have the deep discussions that I always have with you. Your students are so blessed to have such a thoughtful teacher! 🙂 Your observations about coding being an option make me appreciate the thought you are giving this – it honours our belief that every child is different and their passions are different too. Do I believe all students should have a chance at programming, and explore it as ONE way that they can make something worthwhile through logical thinking that is full of wonderful problem solving, planning and collaboration? Yes….you bet I do. Do I think we need to force each child into demonstrations of learning through coding in artificial and contrived ways? Nope…hopefully we’d never restrict them to only visual art or drama or the making of posters or powerpoint or written pieces either!

    Peter and I talk about coding all the time and he shared this video with me today – from the developer of Scratch Jr. I think you’ll like it and I’m definitely going to bring it to my AQ students in our course.

    • Thanks for the comment, Brenda, and as always, the very kind words. I love our conversations too. I’m very excited to watch the video link. I always enjoy what Peter shares.

      The first part of your comment reminded me of a blog post interview by Brian Aspinall. He was interviewing a Grade 1 teacher, who coded with her students using both digital and non-digital tools. Maybe this logical thinking and creating can happen for some students when they “code” with manipulatives in the classroom instead of a program online. We’re all different — right? Choice is so important, and like you, I would never advocate for restricting students to any one tool … regardless of what one it is.


  4. Hi Aviva,
    A very thoughtful blog post that I agree with completely. Most of my thoughts have been stated in previous replies. I think that EVERY student should be exposed to coding. At the very least, they will gain an appreciation for CS even if they are not very good at it. For example, all of my students love to program Sphero or fly a drone. No coding is not for everyone. As well, I have found students that have found their voice through coding. In thinking about Sharon’s comment, I don’t think there would be a teacher that would endeavour to teach math only through coding. Like I said on Saturday, students should be given coding as a choice to share their understanding of curriculum. When you use a PowerPoint as a tool, inevitably you spend some time teaching how to use the software. So there has to be SOME time given to skill development. Unfortunately, I don’t think coding as an option exists right now. I hope time will change that. A range of possibilities is key to differentiated instruction. I really need to think whether coding should become curriculum. I often wonder if it will be part of a 21CL curriculum. What is definite . . . I’ve seen the benefits to it and think it should become more widespread with the help of teacher training. I welcome feedback to my comments.

    • Thanks for the comment, Enzo! You make an important point about this “choice” maybe not consistently existing right now. How can we help to change this? Coding may not be for everyone, but it is a wonderful choice, and one that hopefully all students will get. I’d love to see coding embedded more within our curriculum versus making it a separate document. I think it has potential to support learning in all subject areas versus being a subject of its own. I’d be curious to know what others think.


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