The Memphis Commercial Appeal recently had an article about a private school incorporating iPad computing coding for kindergarteners. At first I was appalled. Kindergarteners? Coding? Why, they should be learning to tie their shoes!
Then, after sputtering a few cuss words (nothing too bad) to myself, especially when I saw Bill Gates name and the Hour of Code page, I realized I was a little jealous of those kindergarteners. Maybe I could call on one of them to help me with my website, which has had a lot more problems behind the scenes than most know, or care to know. This includes two significant crashes—one on Thanksgiving. I don’t understand computer programming. I don’t know code.
The problem is anything with Bill Gates’s name raises a red flag. Most of us know he is the heavyweight behind Common Core and a whole list of draconian reforms.
Here, with his and others’ attempts to make computing easier for children, I think he might be on to something. Yet, I am quick to want to deride his attempts. I wonder about his motives.
The Hour of Code video is showy. It has a lot of other unpopular reformers touting coding. Even President Obama cheers for it. I can’t help but wonder, if he had coding skills, couldn’t he have helped with the health care website?
The President’s problems aside, we have a lot more important concerns in public schools, then computer programming if you ask me. Computer skills are only a fraction of what makes a great school great.
But unlike Common Core State Standards and some of the other harmful early childhood reforms, teaching code looks like…dare I say…fun…for the kindergarteners in the newspaper. They weren’t crying over any test. They were not, however, smiling either, like the teacher; called an “older teacher” by the reporter. I guess older people can still learn coding, so there is hope for me. But the students were engaged with the iPad. It captured their attention.
This is not to say that the Hour of Code doesn’t involve a lot of commercialism, or that the fear of computers replacing teachers isn’t front and center. We have all been shocked at the pictures of massive numbers of students sitting in computer carrel rows in charter schools. People will also most likely make money off of coding lessons and iPad purchases in public schools.
I also wonder whether disadvantaged children in poor schools have access to iPads and coding instruction, or are they too busy marching in line and clapping to the beat of Direct Instruction.
Furthermore, the push in early childhood to learn beyond a child’s developmental level is still a huge issue, even dangerous. No one should forget this. Still, playing around with coding might be enjoyable and worthwhile for young children. Technology is a fact of life and they are at an age where it might be easy to learn as long as it is done in moderation.
And who better knows techy stuff than Bill Gates?
It really is too bad that Bill Gates has overstepped his boundaries in so many education areas—that he hasn’t listened to the public when it comes to public schools, or to the teachers who must, in the end, do the actual teaching. It comes down to a matter of trust and many of us just don’t trust Bill Gates…not even when he’s quite possibly the expert on a subject that is a good idea.
The Commercial Appeal Article
Kids are “engaged” by Sesame Street too – cheery songs, too-loud high-pitched dialog aimed at small people with small attention spans.
I would definitely want to know more before I’d categorize it as good or bad, but it looks like I have to subscribe to read this particular article.
Nancy Bailey says
Crunchy, I think I described most of the article, and I agree. I think it would be something to watch carefully. I try to have an open mind with technology. Thanks for your response. Oh and I get the Sesame Street reference too!!!