Cathy Davidson: Why We Need a 4th R: Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic, algoRithms

Cathy Davidson at DMLCentral posts a great piece on children learning code: “Why We Need a 4th R: Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic, algoRithms”:

…What is marvelous about algorithmic thinking and Webmaking is that you can actually see abstract thinking transformed into your own customized multimedia stories on the Web, offered to a community, and therefore contributing to the Web. Algorithmic thinking is less about “learning code” than “learning to code.” Code is never finished, it is always in process, something you build on and, in many situations, that you build together with others. Answers aren’t simply “right” guesses among pre-determined choices, but puzzles to be worked over, improved, and adapted for the next situation, the next iteration. You look at examples, you try your own, you run the program, you see if it works. If it doesn’t, you see where you started to go wrong, return to that place, and try something else. The better you become, the more possibilities open for you. Your motivation for learning isn’t to score in the 99th percentile on your end-of-grade exam but to have more complex, surprising, or beautiful results that you can work on and share with your friends. Isn’t that what all learning should be?

…As a “discipline” or profession, programming is anomalous in that it resists professional certification or licensing. Perhaps not surprisingly, there is no professional certification or licensing for programmers. There’s no equivalent of a bar exam or a beautician’s certification, no equivalent of the nursing or public accountant’s license or the MBA. You’re as good as the last program you wrote.

If every elementary school child learned code, it would help them understand that the World Wide Web is vital for everyone because we make it. And if every child learned to code the way it is expected that they will learn the other R’s, we might have a side benefit of greater diversity in our tech worlds. I’d love to see Dora the Coder to encourage girls to play at Webcraft—and a Dora who could be of any race, from any culture, from any country, rich or poor. Our Web is better from full, open, democratized participation—and so is society.

Read the whole thing. I plan on being present at her fireside chat, hosted by Mozilla, on the 1st: “Teaching the fourth “r:” webmaking as a vital 21st century skill”.

2 thoughts on “Cathy Davidson: Why We Need a 4th R: Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic, algoRithms

Comments are closed.