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Coding: What Language(s) should I teach ??

posted May 21, 2019, 8:50 AM by Roger Minier   [ updated May 22, 2019, 7:02 AM ]



Which coding language is best for students to learn?   This article will explore some of the most common languages, and suggest that you develop a district-wide plan which helps engage students, get’s them excited about the possibilities for learning and earning in the expanding world of Tech.


   First some common terms you may have heard, and what they really mean:


  Coding - writing instructions that can be used to control computers, robots or almost any electronic device.


  Programming - Same definition as Coding !


  Programming Language -  Not all computers use the same set of instructions.   We all know that iPads, and Windows computers - though similar - do not work in exactly the same way.   In part that’s because they use different coding languages.  The instructions or ‘code’ available to control iPads are not the same instructions as those available to a programmer working on a new version of say MicroSoft Word for Windows.


  Information Technology (IT) - Includes over 200 career areas, such as electronics, engineering, communication, robotics, network administrators, help desk technicians and, and many others.  Some of these careers require coding, but many opportunities also exist for those students who would rather focus on other areas.  



So what languages are most often taught K-12 ?


Blockly  Code.org offers a great free introduction to coding using Blockly a language,  specifically designed for helping students of any age new to coding.  More advanced lessons in Code.org use a version of  Javascript (defined later in this article).


Scratch  Developed by MIT and popularized by the  coding Google’s CS First curriculum, Scratch, like Blockly, is a ‘Visual Programming Language’ which uses a graphic, color coded list of instructions that most new users find very easy to understand.


Java - This is often the first ‘text based’ programming language that requires coding using very specific terms and puncutiation.  in pK-12, Java is probably best know for being used as the language in AP (Advance Placement) Computer Science A, and is one of the most popular languages for ‘real programmers’.


Javascript - Similar to Java, Javascript is perhaps best known for being used by Code.org after students have mastered the basics of coding using Blockly.  Java and Javascript are however different languages, and learning one does not necessarily make it easier to learn the other.


Swift -  a language promoted by Apple which is optimized for beginner programmers who want to create apps for the iPad.  Swift Playgrounds is a resource for those wanting to teach (and learn) to program with Swift.  About 2% of all jobs in programming use Swift, but it is popular for K-12 and has a great set of resources to help teach the content.


Python - Popular in K-12, especially for students using Raspberry Pi - a special type of computer which is fairly easy to use when building robots or other projects at the middle and high school level.  Python is currently the most popular language of ‘real’ programmers.


What’s the Best Language ?  

     Asking what’s the best language is like asking “Are Ford trucks better than Chevy?”.    Everyone has their own opinion, and can point to facts which support their choice.  But we can see which languages are most often selected by ‘real programmers’ along with some interesting discussions at  http://pypl.github.io/PYPL.html


DISTRICT PLAN

  Whatever language(s) you teach, be sure that you have a district-wide plan to ensure ALL students have an opportunity to learn coding.  And if your goal includes preparing students for a career in coding, be sure to consider how you can develop your coding and technology curriculum by answering the following questions:

        What coding are we currently teaching, and in which grades?

       What coding language is used at my Career Center ?

        What are the computer language (coding) options with College Credit Plus courses available in my district?

        Which students, based on their career goals, will benefit from AP Computer Science Principles

        Which students, based on their career goals, will benefit from AP Computer Science A

        What courses do we offer which help students prepare for the many jobs in tech that do not require coding ?

For more information and to search for career resources visit the Ohio Means Jobs website.  For a quick summary of the top in-demand opportunities for technology careers including those which require coding skills,  also read the article at https://www.itcareerfinder.com/it-careers.html

For more information or to receive a slide presentation with examples of languages please email the primary author of this article, Roger Minier, at minier@nwoet.org    Roger has taught five different languages in high school, three at the college level, and like all coders and instructors, has his own opinion :)  of what will best help prepare YOUR students for the many opportunities in tech!

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