Why Our Students Need to Learn Coding and Programming Skills and Who Benefits from Such an Education as This?

Differentiating Instruction through Technology

with Dr. Lee Graham

by Aleta May

Essential question: How are games providing new opportunities for differentiation in the classroom?

Please click on my February 28th Link to see a PowerPoint Slideshow presentation I created: “Coding to Write Stories & Gaming to Express Comprehension for EDET 637 Differentiating Instruction through Technology”

In Edison, New Jersey, the district got the opportunity in 2015 to pilot a a program that connected gifted students with students who have significant academic and social challenges. The connection between these students was four NAO (now) robots. Students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) need to develop social language skills by reading cues that they do not naturally pick up on. The robots have “human-like body movements. The clean design lessens sensory information, which helps avoid overstimulation and makes social tasks easier, especially for children with autism” (PaperClip Communications Staff, 2015). A speech and language specialist stated that since these robots do not have various facial expressions, an unwavering voice, and are not judgmental, students who may not be willing to talk, will respond to the robots. In the robot programs, students learn turn taking behaviors, how to follow directions, and more. When students were coding these moves and responses, they experienced more challenges with defining the project than they did with the actual coding.

There is an app called ScratchJr that young students can use to learn coding; while Code.org has tutorials for older students where they can build a galaxy with code (Jacobson, 2016). Students learn to program codes to get their robot to a preselected place. At the ASTE Conference in Anchorage this weekend, a teacher explained how his students were learning to program codes for avatars to build walls several bricks at a time instead of the slower method, thus allowing them to create a scene from a book they are reading much more quickly. According to Welcome (2015), advises that teachers new to this skill, like myself, should go to Code.org and start with just leaning the coding lingo. Since I realize a technology company will not be sending people to our school, we could invite company community service project representatives to teach us by Skype or Google+

Since I did have the opportunity to work with teachers experienced with Minecraft.edu during my practicum, this seems like a great starting place for me to learn coding. The free-form structure encourages students to design projects where gaming in the classroom becomes a collaborative project. Designing in the multi-player mode leads students to have “profound discussions about topics that were notoriously challenging for teachers to communicate effectively” (Granata, 2016). Minecraft has become more popular than any computer game and educators are tapping into this opportunity to “use their creativity to design projects, free from the kinds of limitations they would face using traditional methods (Granata, 2016, p. 2).

Greg Hamley teaches technology to students in an elementary school. I was so encouraged when I saw his picture with a student as he use a program like crunchzilla or Code.org to draw students into coding, or just to use math games to build their math skills (Stiff, 2015). Greg was willing to learn how to teach programming skills to students and states that he has the best teaching job in the school. Students need to be prepared for the new and upcoming careers where programming skills will be needed. Code.org as an organization has “lobbied in 13 states to make computer science courses qualify as math or science credits that can be applied toward high school graduation” (Shueh, p. 43). I am also encouraged by the idea that I can teach coding, because I can Learn as I go. This has been the mantra of my life in the special education teaching field anyway. Teaching in innovative ways and differentiating are challenges I have every day.


Gow, P. (2015). A new culture of coding. Independent School, 74(2), pp. 64-70.

Granata, K. (2016). Teachers Take Advantage of Minecraft (Joel Levin interviewed) in the Classroom, Posted on Feb. 6, 2015 extracted 2-26-16 http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/02/teaching-in-the-age-of-minecraft/385231/

Jacobson, L. (2016). Coding’s finest hour. School Library Journal, 62(1), p. 11.

Shueh, J. (2014). Advocacy groups push coding as a core curriculum: Students must learn how to create technology to prepare for a computer-driven workforce. Government Technology. www.eddigest.com

PaperClip Communications, Inc. (2015). High school students change lives of special needs students with their coding skills. Curriculum Review, 55(2).  www.curriculumreview.com.

Stiff, H. (2015). Monforton teacher instructs coding to kids; Posted Friday, February 6, 2015 Retrieved on 2-26-16 at:  http://www.belgrade-news.com/news/article_6716d926-ae2a-11e4-959b-13ebce844c1c.html?mode=print

Thompson, G. (2016). THE Journal: Transforming Education Through Technology (Interview with Latta) Posted on 2-18-16; Retrieved on  2-26-16 at: https://thejournal.com/Articles/2016/02/18/Bringing-Coding-to-the-Masses-One-School-at-a-Time.aspx?Page=2

Welcome, A. (2015). Crack the code: Creativity, problem-solving, and teamwork abound when students are introduced to coding. Principal. www.naesp.org

One thought on “Why Our Students Need to Learn Coding and Programming Skills and Who Benefits from Such an Education as This?

  1. Ms. Ramirez

    That’s great that you did a practicum that included minecraft. I would really like to see a teacher use it an action, in fact I am very interested in taking the class that UAS used to have, I wonder if they still do. So have you done coding yourself? I agree with you I think it is important that students learn these skills to be ready for the market place. They have so many opportunities if they know how to do it compared to someone who doesn’t. I know coding has their own languages, but it is almost like knowing another language that can be very beneficial for the student. We do have a STEM class at our school, but I do not know if any of this is being taught. I would really like to be educated on this.


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