Computer programming in English class?

codeHow is it possible to persuade English teachers to teach computer programming (or “coding,” as people say today)? Maybe it can happen only in a private school? Why would anyone even want to insist that English teachers should teach programming?

These are some of the questions that come to mind on reading an article by Callum Borchers in the Boston Globe five days ago. At nearby Beaver Country Day School, everyone learns to program — students and faculty alike:

Rather than teach it as a distinct course, Beaver is integrating coding into all of its subjects, experimenting with uses not only in math and science classes, but even in English and art.

Wow! It’s not that English teachers at other schools couldn’t learn to teach programming; it’s just that it’s hard to see what would motivate them to want to do so. I understand why math teachers would want to do so, though even then there are plenty of people who worry about “covering” the curriculum while adding a programming component, especially in this day and age of standardized testing and outcome-based evaluations. Note that the article’s one example of a teacher getting extra preparation is a math teacher, not an English teacher:

At Beaver, faculty members went to varying lengths to familiarize themselves with coding languages in preparation for the school year. Some who expect to use coding skills regularly, such as math instructor Tiffany Anderson, took formal training during the summer.

In any case, this is a fascinating idea. I look forward to hearing about the results.

You can get a slightly different perspective in a Huffington Post article written by Peter Hutton, the head of Beaver Country Day. He makes the case for universally teaching programming (but without the Globe’s sensationalistic aspect of writing about getting English teachers to teach it):

The question is how to successfully make computer programming a core component of every student’s education. [bold and underlining in original]

Also, be sure to read the comments to the Globe article, where you will learn that all students at AMSA study programming for six years! Can a comprehensive public high school do what this private school and this charter school are doing? Should we try?


Categories: Teaching & Learning, Technology