To be honest, when I think about coding activities for grades K-8, I don’t normally think about using the skill of creativity to complete them. And yet, that’s what the latest report from Project Tomorrow/Speak Up says. Here are some of the key findings from this report released in May 2019.
Finding #1: Creativity Is an Important Skill
Three-quarters of parents of school-aged children (74%) identified creativity as an important skill for their child to develop in school to be successful in the future. And I think that all educators would agree with this as well. In looking at a future filled with artificial intelligence and robots, creativity is one of the main things that will help humans to distinguish themselves from “the machines.”
“Students from all types of communities and family backgrounds want to learn coding as the means to developing their creativity skills and improving their preparation for future success.”
Finding #2: Coding Helps Develop Creativity
Parents and school district leaders see coding as a good way for students to develop creativity skills. Students agree as well; 58% of students in grades 6-8 say the most important reason to incorporate coding within the school day is to help them develop creativity skills.
Finding #3: All Students Want to Learn to Code
Student interest in learning coding transcends gender, grade level, community type, and home poverty, and that interest is growing. Middle school student interest in learning coding increased by 23% in just three years. So let’s not kid ourselves that coding is only for gifted students or mathematically talented students or boys or girls or wealthy students. Coding is for everyone and should be taught to all students K-8.
Finding #4: Teachers Need Help Teaching Coding
Teachers need easy-to-use tools and classroom support resources to effectively integrate coding as a new form of creative expression across their curriculum. While there are many resources for teaching coding, teaching it from a creativity mindset is not as prevalent. The best way to promote creativity while students are learning coding is to allow them choice, both in what tools they use and in what products they create. Of course, this is managed choice with the teacher helping to ensure that good decisions are being made.
Steve Isaacs, a teacher at William Annin Middle School in Basking Ridge, NJ endorses student choice to not only help his students develop their creativity muscles in an organic way, but also as a way to teach them about how to learn. Mr. Isaacs uses coding around game development as a medium for his students to develop these skills. Most importantly however, he provides ample opportunities within these coding experiences for his students to self-direct their learning.
“When they start creating, I want my students to have choices as to what tools they use and to take learning into their own hands. Even when I guide them through something, they need to take ownership to make the game their own. This is really about teaching kids about how to learn, not just about how to make something based upon my instructions.”
Critical Questions to Ask
How are your students strengthening their creativity skills? How are they being exposed to coding and allowed to choose their own projects to be created? How are you ensuring that all students have the opportunity to learn to code?