In recent years, the expansion of computer science programs and the importance of teaching middle school coding (and elementary school coding too!) have been all over the news. You may be wondering why coding is so important for kids or what benefits are associated with learning to code.
The importance of middle school coding
According to a report released by the Brookings Institute, the demand for computer science professionals is expected to grow twice as fast as other professions, and the median salary of computer scientists is over $88,000, which is more than double the median wage for all occupations in the U.S. However, stereotypes and misconceptions about computer science limit the number of people who pursue computer science education (Vegas and Fowler, 2020).
By teaching middle school coding, we can generate student interest and ignite passions that may have otherwise gone unrealized. Additionally, students who learn to code show greater problem solving skills and have higher rates of college attendance (Vegas and Fowler, 2020).
Computer Science Education Week
If you’re ready to help your students see themselves as future computer scientists, you can start small!
Every year at the beginning of December, people around the world celebrate Computer Science Education Week. This year’s celebration will take place December 6-12, 2022. Here are some easy and engaging activities to start middle school coding.
1. Computer parts and functions
Your students likely have some basic knowledge of how to use a computer, but can they identify computer parts and what they do? Have your students deepen their knowledge of computer science by exploring the parts of a computer and their functions.
2. Unplugged coding
There are several benefits to starting unplugged, first it helps students who may feel uncomfortable or intimidated by technology to access computer science concepts in skills in a way that feels familiar. This assists with your buy-in. Second, you will force students to slow down and really think about the process and develop their algorithmic thinking skills. When they immediately jump into a coding program, they are often so excited about solving the puzzles, they miss out on some of the metacognition they need to do to develop the strong skills that will help them write more challenging programs in the future. Get started with this unplugged coding lesson.
3. Algorithmic thinking
Algorithmic thinking is the basis for computer programming. Before students can effectively write code, they need to think about how to give clear step-by-step instructions. Find a lesson for introducing algorithmic thinking here!
4. Sign up to host Hour of Code with Code.org
Every year during Computer Science Education Week, Code.org hosts amazing free coding activities for all ages.
5. Computer Science movie day
If you are looking for something low-prep and super easy but still give your students an opportunity to learn about the importance of computer science and celebrate coding week, check out one of these computer science-themed movies!
- Can we build a brain? (2018)
This class period length feature will teach students about artificial intelligence. They will explore current applications and limitations of the technology and its impacts on society.
- Hidden Figures (2017)
This film focuses on the science, math, and engineering behind space travel. Based on a true story, the movie follows the careers of three Black women employed at NASA during the 1960s. Your students will learn about human computers and the first iterations of the modern computers we use today.
- Rise of the Robots (2016)
This engaging documentary will teach students about robots in the real world and their impacts on society. They will follow contestants in the US Department of Defense’s DARPA Challenge as they build rescue robots and experience highs and lows throughout the competition.
6. Research the importance of learning to code
“Why do we need to learn this?” Answer this question and more with this computer science-themed writing activity. Students develop and justify a claim about the importance of computer science education.
Looking for more middle school coding activities?
You can score 3-weeks worth of computer science curriculum and save 20% when you purchase the Introduction to Computer Science Unit. Your students will learn about the parts of a computer, how to write algorithms, using flowcharts to plan programs, translating algorithms into coding language, and why learning to code is important.
Grab these lessons today to get back your nights and weekends while knowing your students will be engaged in learning the basics of computer coding!
Vegas and Fowler. (2020). What do we know about the expansion of K-12 computer science education? A review of the evidence. Brookings. Retrieved September 18, 2022 from https://www.brookings.edu/research/what-do-we-know-about-the-expansion-of-k-12-computer-science-education/#:~:text=Multiple%20studies%20indicate%20that%20CS,et%20al.%2C%202020