Beyond Coding: How Children Learn Human Values through Programming, Prof Marina Umaschi Bers
Today, schools are introducing STEM education and robotics to children in ever-lower grades. In Beyond Coding, Marina Umaschi Bers lays out a pedagogical roadmap for teaching code that encompasses the cultivation of character along with technical knowledge and skills. Presenting code as a universal language, she shows how children discover new ways of thinking, relating, and behaving through creative coding activities. Today’s children will undoubtedly have the technical knowledge to change the world. But cultivating strength of character, socioeconomic maturity, and a moral compass alongside that knowledge, says Bers, is crucial.
Bers, a leading proponent of teaching computational thinking and coding as early as preschool and kindergarten, presents examples of children and teachers using the Scratch Jr. and Kibo robotics platforms to make explicit some of the positive values implicit in the process of learning computer science. If we are to do right by our children, our approach to coding must incorporate the elements of a moral education: the use of narrative to explore identity and values, the development of logical thinking to think critically and solve technical and ethical problems, and experiences in the community to enable personal relationships. Through learning the language of programming, says Bers, it is possible for diverse cultural and religious groups to find points of connection, put assumptions and stereotypes behind them, and work together toward a common goal.
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About the Author
Marina Umaschi Bers is professor at the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development with a secondary appointment in the Computer Science Department at Tufts University. She heads the interdisciplinary Developmental Technologies research group. Her research involves the design and study of innovative learning technologies to promote children’s positive development, and has been featured in the New York Times, NPR, CNBC, CBS News, Wall Street Journal and The Economist.
She is passionate about using the power of technology to promote positive development and learning for young children, and spoke at a 2014 TEDx talk on the topic Young programmers – think playgrounds, not playpens. She has also written several books, including Teaching Computational Thinking and Coding to Young Children (2021), Coding as Playground: Programming and Computational Thinking in the Early Childhood Classroom (2018), The Official ScratchJr Book (2015), Designing Digital Experiences for Positive Youth Development: From Playpen to Playground (2012), and Blocks to Robots: Learning with Technology in the Early Childhood Classroom (2008).
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