What do students think about coding?

What does assessment look like in a K-8 Computer Science program? Computer science teachers like myself use various methods to determine learning amongst their students, examples include:  a debug activity, some version of ‘get the robot through the maze in N programming blocks’ or a rubric to assess different components of a Scratch project.

In addition to problem solving and programming skills, I also assess my student’s attitude to computer science.  Through the year, I use anonymous SurveyMonkey surveys, Google forms, Edmodo questions, and writing prompts to determine what student think about their learning and about coding.

Since I teach across the Los Altos school district (over 500 students each week), I have a wealth of data to analyze after each survey. My survey question at the end of this school year wasWhat do you think about coding? What would you tell someone to convince them that they should learn to code? ‘.

This question generated a wide variety of responses. Here are some that seem to have a common theme – can you detect it?

  • I think it’s difficult, but still interesting.
  • It was fun yet challenging.
  • It is kind of difficult to learn at first, but then is fun to play with
  • Coding is hard in the beginning but fun once you learn how.
  • It is fun but hard and boring.
  • Coding is fun but hard. If you want to design or make something coding is for you.
  • Coding is hard but interesting.
  • Love it, and makes your brain work hard while you have tons of fun.
  • I think coding is fun but can be difficult.
  • I liked coding. It was challenging though.
  • I think coding is very interesting and challenging. The feeling of success when you finish a project is all worth the trouble.
  • Coding is complicated but fun. People think it’s scary because it’s new but it’s actually really cool!

The common theme is: ‘difficult but fun’.

These students find coding fun even though it is difficult. In fact, they think it is fun because it is hard. They enjoy coding for the same reason they enjoy a good video game – it is challenging. It is not easy and boring.

Seymour Papert who showed us that children can program computers almost 40 years ago, explained this kind of learning as ‘Hard fun’ in his article http://www.papert.org/articles/HardFun.html

It appears that my sixth grade students agree with the student Papert mentions in his article. Coding is fun and it is hard. Much has changed in terms of tools and resources in the last 40 years, and it is good to know that this fundamental attitude remains the same.