Weave coding into K-5 curricula as new literacies

Publication Date06 Dec 2019
DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/IDD-09-2019-0069
Pages49-66
AuthorYi Jin,Shenghua Zha
SubjectLibrary & information science,Library & information services,Lending,Document delivery,Collection building & management,Stock revision,Consortia
Weave coding into K-5 curricula as new
literacies
Yi Jin
Department of Instructional Technology, Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Georgia, USA, and
Shenghua Zha
Department of Counseling and Instructional Sciences, University of South Alabama, Mobile, Alabama, USA
Abstract
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to posit that coding should be considered as a critical part of new literacies. Teacher educators should rst
adopt the new literacies perspective, and then prepare pre-service teachers to teach both traditional literacy and new literacies skills, especially
preparing them how to weave coding into K-5 literacy curricula to cultivate younger learnersnew ways of expressions and computational thinking
skills. To facilitate this educational transformation, low-cost Web 2.0 tools and apps were introduced as one practical approach, along with some
literacy lesson ideas to help teacher educators and pre-service teachers begin to integrate coding into the K-5 literacy curricula.
Design/methodology/approach This paper is a viewpoint paper.
Findings A table of low-cost Web 2.0 tools was presented with sample lesson ideas.
Originality/value More than ever, coding breaks the traditional denition of literacy as paper-based reading and writing. It empowers students to
read, write and create with multimodality on multiple platforms. Weaving coding into the literacy curricula offers the window to pro mote both
computational thinking and new literacies skills. Teacher educators, among all other stakeholders, should begin the efforts to prepare pre-service
teachers to weave coding into the literacy curricula and other content areas in the teacher educations programs now.
Keywords Coding, Computational thinking, Expression, New literacies, Pre-service teachers, Teacher education, Literacy curriculum, K-5 education
Paper type Viewpoint
What are coding and computational thinking
skills?
Coding is a process thatincludes a series of interactions (inputs
and outputs) between the coder and the devices to solve
problems. The coding processtranslates solutions from natural
languages to computer-executable languages. Coding brings
endless possibilitiesto improve peoples daily life and society as
a whole. In todays job market, coding is required in a wide
variety of careers ranging from medicine, science, engineering,
data analysis, informationtechnology, music, entertainment, to
art and design. New positions are being continuously created,
such as system engineers, game developers, and AI
programmers. These fast-growing industries call for more
professionals procient in coding and other higher-order
thinking skills to ll these positions and transform the
industries. This high demand continues to boil as US job
market simmers. Burning Glass Technologies (2016), a job
market analytics rm, published a report called Beyond Point
and Click: The Expanding Demand for Coding Skill.
Researchers from the company stated that there were seven
million job openings in 2015 that required coding skills, and
these positions were growing 12 per cent faster than the market
average. Researchers also found that these jobs paid up to
$22,000 more per year than other jobs, and 49 per cent of the
high paying jobs required some coding skills. Moreover,
shortly, almost every profession will require professionals to
know how to code, more importantly, having computational
thinking skillsand new ways of expressions.
Coding, as a process, requires the coders to master a variety
of skills, such as an understanding of the logic principles,
STEM content knowledge, computational thinking skills, new
literacies skills and softskills. Computational thinking skills are
a set of problem-solving skills applicable to a wide array of
STEM and non-STEM elds (Jacob and Warschauer, 2018;
Rich et al.,2018;Wing, 2006). Wing (2006) summarized the
skills needed for coding as solving problems, designingsystems
and understanding human behavior, by drawing on the
concepts fundamentalto computer science. According to Israel
et al. (2015), computationalthinking skills are composed of the
following skills:
Formulating problems in a way that enables us to use a computer and other
tools to help solve them; logically organizing and analyzing data;
representing data through abstractions such as models and simulations;
automating solutions through algorithmic thinking (a series of ordered
steps); identifying, analyzing, and implementing possible solutions with the
goal of achieving the most efcient and effective combinations of steps and
resources; and generalizing and transferring this problem-solving process to
a wide variety of problems (Society of Technology in Education [ISTE] and
the Computer Science Teachers Association [CSTA]). (p. 263)
Thecurrentissueandfulltextarchiveofthisjournalisavailableon
Emerald Insight at: https://www.emerald.com/insight/2398-6247.htm
Information Discovery and Delivery
48/2 (2020) 4966
© Emerald Publishing Limited [ISSN 2398-6247]
[DOI 10.1108/IDD-09-2019-0069]
Received 30 September 2019
Revised 10 October 2019
16 October 2019
22 October 2019
Accepted 22 October 2019
49
This set of skills help people take large, complex and vague
problems and break them down to concrete sequential steps,
diagnosing errors and come up with new ideas and solutions,
which are critical for all professions.
Besides these skills, twenty-rst-century skills are also
needed since coders work in teams and contribute to large
projects. The Partnership for twenty-rst century skills
developed a framework for twenty-rst century learning, which
elaborated on the skill, knowledge and expertise needed to
enter todays workforce. They outlined four core outcomes:
core subject and twenty-rst century themes, learning and
innovation skills, information,media, and technology skills and
life and career skills (Partnership for twenty-rst-century skills,
n.d.). A leading association in education, the International
Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) also outlines
similar core skills in the following areas: creative and
innovation, communication and collaboration, research
and information uency, criticalthinking, problem solving and
decision-making, digital citizenship and technology operations
and concepts (ISTE,2007).
Soft skills are critical during the process of coding. Robles
(2012) denes soft skills as personal character traits plus
interpersonal skills, such as communication, courtesy,
exibility, integrity, interpersonal skills, positive attitude,
professionalism,responsibility, teamwork and work ethics.
Overall, these essential skills should be taught in K-12
schools to better prepare students to work in every profession
imaginable. In turn, teacher educators should prepare pre-
service teachers on how to cultivate these critical students
skills. This paper argues that coding could be considered as a
part of new literacies, focusing on the possibilities brought by
integrating coding into the K-5 literacy curricula, including
new ways of expressions and cultivation of these twenty-rst
century skills.
Coding in K-12 education and teacher education
Since coding is one of the most vital job skills for now and the
future, pre-service teachersshould begin to think about how to
cultivate studentsskills and competencies in coding in K-12
schools. Besides this practical reason, there are several other
reasons why pre-service teachers should learn how to teach
coding even for early childhoodeducation.
First, coding is a critical part of new literacies that help
students think logically, organize their thoughts and effectively
communicate their ideas with a broader audience (Hutchison
et al.,2016). Reading and writing skills will benet when
students learn to code usinga new language as learning to code
is similar to learning to write, only in a different format and
using a new medium for expressions(Bers, 2018).
Second, coding facilitates studentslearning in STEM
content areas, especially improving studentsproblem-solving
through mathematical concepts, mathematical thinking and
systematic reasoning (Falloon, 2016;Psycharis and Kallia,
2017; Qualls and Sherrell, 2010). Coding also helps develop
studentsunderstanding of the scientic process as students
who are competent coders could construct, hypothesize,
predict, explore,experiment, analyze and draw conclusions.
Third, coding fosters twenty-rst century skills such as
communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and
problem-solving that could be translated into careers later
(Hayes and Stewart, 2016;Psycharisand Kallia, 2017;Schulte
et al.,2012). For every student, learning about coding help
them understand how the technology works, such as dissect an
app or build a website and howtechnology shapes our world in
modern times. Learning coding also helps studentslearn about
cybersecurity, develop digital citizenship and participate in
civic engagement(Jacob et al.,2018).
Last but not least, coding helps students build social skills
including collaboration (Falloon, 2016;Fessakis et al., 2013)
and soft skills such as grit, persistence, focus, resilience and
organization (Robles, 2012). These benets highlight the
necessity of teaching coding to students. Rich et al. (2018)
investigated teachersexperiences in teaching computing/
coding. Teachers reported that they observed an increase in
studentsproblem-solving skills and resilience, as well as a
positive attitude from students. Similar to the results of this
survey study, positive outcomes were reported in the literature
(Lye and Koh, 2014). Overall, learning to code brings
academic and life benetsto students that help them build their
condence, empower students, infuse life skills and provide
career preparations. To be more specic, after a systematic
literature review, Popat and Starkey (2019) created a model
that depicted the inuence of coding on educationaloutcomes,
including academic skills or knowledge, critical thinking,
problem-solving through mathematical concepts, social skills
and self-management.
Another critical reason to teach coding in all K-12 schools is
that coding is a way to promote educational equity, inclusion
and neutrality. Teaching codingfrom a young age in all schools
ensures that students have equitable access to learn about
computer science and STEM subjects and later on ensure
equity in the computer science pipeline. All stakeholders of
public educationshould work toward the goal of breaking down
the barriers for underrepresented minority and economically
disadvantaged students to learn computerscience and become
computer scientists and engineers (Mercier et al.,2006). Pre-
service teachersare a major party among these stakeholders.
Teachers should begin to teach coding as early as in early
childhood educationbecause skills learned through coding help
students with their reading, writing and math. Scratch is the
most used educational coding tool in K-12 schools. Resnick
(2013) found that more than 11 million studentsused Scratch,
and students learned more skills besides coding: Math
concepts, logic, techniques for solving problems, project
design, collaboration and communication skills, ability to take
criticism and perseverance. These concepts and skills are
fundamental in elementary school as outlined in Common
Core State Standards and Next Generation ScienceStandards,
which calls teachers to begin teaching coding early on. The
earlier teachers teach coding to students, the more competent
students will be to think and create using technology as new
ways of expressions. Therefore, teacher educators should
prepare all pre-service teachers on how to teach coding no
matter which grade level they hope to teach in their future
teaching profession.
Although educators have begun to realize the benets of
offering computer science education in K-12 settings, we still
have a long way to go. According to the results of an
international survey conducted by Richet al. (2018), England,
Weave coding into K-5 curricula
Yi Jin and Shenghua Zha
Information Discovery and Delivery
Volume 48 · Number 2 · 2020 · 4966
50

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