Treating computing as a real literacy: If learning to code were like learning to write…

April 11, 2016 at 7:38 am 5 comments

I like what Amy Ko is doing in this blog post. She imagines if computing literacy were integrated into our daily lives, how would we introduce computing to children, how would we talk about it to our children?

I don’t buy the focus in this post on tokenizing and textual languages.  I would hope that children would talk about feedback, and iteration, and how to build conditionals that tested what you wanted (e.g., “How would you know if that was true?” — which might lead to some great discussions about truth and experiments and science, all by itself!).  The point of a piece like Amy’s is to have these discussions, to talk about what we’d integrate and where.

I’m reminded of Mike Horn’s work on computational sticker books (see link here).  Mike asks the question, “If computational literacy were integrated into our daily lives, how would parent and child do computation while reading a book at bedtime?”  Mike’s answer is computational sticker books. Doesn’t matter whether you agree with Mike about sticker books, the point is to wonder what a future world of computational integration might be like.

If learning to code were like learning to write, we’d next teach children how to read short books, giving them programs to read, exposing them to all of the computational possibilities of the language they were learning. “Madison, what did you choose for your book project this month? Oh, an Instagram post indexing algorithm, interesting! Are you liking it? What’s your favorite idiom?”

If learning to code were like learning to write, we’d ask children to start writing sentences, creating simple statements that accomplish small tasks. “Daniel, we keep forgetting to turn the light off in the garage. Can you log into the IoT portal and write a rule that turns it off every night at 9 pm?”

Source: If learning to code were like learning to write… | Bits and Behavior

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. alanone1  |  April 11, 2016 at 8:09 am

    Etoys was first designed as “lapware” for children on the laps of parents to do fun things together. This was part of our take on some of the social aspects of “literacy”.

  • […] Mark Guzdial’s latest blog post (here) discussed another by Andy Ko […]

  • 3. Mark Virag  |  April 13, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    Remember that at bedtime we do not write a story with our kids. We read, which is the corresponding passive skill. The analogy, then, would be to read (not write) code at bedtime. You could read a variety of tasks, implemented in different languages and styles.

    • 4. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  April 14, 2016 at 12:42 am

      Reading code is very, very boring. There is very little code written well enough to be interesting, and even then the interest requires more active attention and concentration than listening to a story.

      You could get a better analogy from Talking Math With Your Kids (Christopher Danielson) or

  • […] I’ve only just started reading this new report from National Academies Press, but am finding it useful and interesting.  What do we mean when we say that we want people to be scientifically literate?  It’s an important question to ask when considering the goal of computational literacy. […]


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