Japan plans to make programming mandatory at schools as a step to foster creativity: What if it doesn’t work?

July 8, 2016 at 7:26 am 8 comments

Japan is planning to make programming mandatory in all their schools because it will help their children to think logically and creatively.  Except, we don’t have evidence that it does.  We know a little about how to use programming as a medium for developing thinking skills, but I know of no efforts to make it replicable and scalable. I don’t know of anyone using programming in order to improve creativity. I know of no evidence that learning to program improves creativity.

This is a nation-size gamble.  I’m interested in how Japan goes about this — they face the same challenges as NYC does in their initiative, at an even larger scale.

It is essential that computer programming to be taught in schools will lead to improving children’s ability to think logically and creatively.

Source: Plan to make programming mandatory at schools a step to foster creativity – The Japan News

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Why Professors Resist Inclusive Teaching by Annie Murphy Paul: Especially important in CS Why Students Don’t Like Active Learning: Stop making me work at learning!

8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  July 8, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    I’m surprised you didn’t pull this quote from the article: “How teachers can acquire the necessary knowledge and teaching expertise will be the biggest hurdle for Japan to clear before computer programming becomes a required subject at schools.”

    They point to Israel’s, Great Britain’s, and US attempts at getting programming into all schools. So far, Israel’s attempt is the furthest along—how is that going?

    • 2. Mark Guzdial  |  July 8, 2016 at 12:59 pm

      Israel has had CS in its high schools for over a decade now, with coordination through Machshava – Israel National Center for Computer Science Teachers: http://cse.proj.ac.il/index-en.htm. Israel probably has the most computing education researchers per capita. I don’t know if anyone there has looked at the creativity question.

  • 3. swo8  |  July 8, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    They should do that in Canada too.

  • 4. Mark Ahrens  |  July 11, 2016 at 9:14 am

    Hi Mark, Thanks as always for your informative posts. I watched a YouTube video recently by Colleen Lewis who, among other things, teaches Scratch to teachers and as part of a edX MOOC. She has done some research that showed a statistically significant correlation between Math aptitude and programming competence. I was wondering if you knew of any study that showed that introducing programming correlated with an increase in Math aptitude. In other words, would introducing programming into a school district lead to better educational outcomes for students. Thanks.

    • 5. Mark Guzdial  |  July 11, 2016 at 11:32 am

      Hi Mark, yes, there is evidence that math aptitude and programming competence correlate. There is significant evidence that math aptitude is a predictor for programming competence, but only in classrooms. As I recently reported, we don’t see math predicting programming learning in experimental settings.

      I recommend looking at Bootstrap. They have evidence that their curriculum is leading to improved learning in mathematics (see this blog post). Note that this is a carefully constructed curriculum designed for that impact on mathematics. Programming doesn’t generally lead to mathematics learning.

      • 6. Mark Ahrens  |  July 11, 2016 at 1:10 pm

        Thanks Mark! I had worked a bit with Bootstrap (PD) but will take a fresh, current look with your comments in mind.

  • 7. Holographic Elf  |  July 18, 2016 at 8:43 am

    “In Finland, starting fall 2016, coding is a mandatory, cross curricular activity that starts from first year of school.” http://legroup.aalto.fi/2015/11/coding-in-school-finland-takes-lead-in-europe/

  • 8. Michael Vallance (@FUN2020)  |  January 30, 2017 at 11:25 pm

    maths ~ programming.

    An interesting paper:

    Siegmund et al.’s [1] fMRI research provides “… new evidence that programmers are using language regions of the brain when understanding code and found little activation in other regions of the brain devoted to mathematical thinking.”

    1. Siegmund, J., Kastner, C., Apel, S., Parnin, C., Bethmann, A., Leich, T., Saake, G., Brechmann, A.: Understanding Understanding Source Code with Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, ICSE ’14, May 31 – June 7, 2014, Hyderabad, India


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