Coding As A Playground by Dr. Marina Umaschi Bers Explores Coding, Creating and Play In Early Childhood
Thirty years ago when coding was introduced at the collegiate level it was believed to be something for the upper echelon of geeks, nerds and super students. As coding was introduced in high school computer science classes twenty years ago, again it was more for students that excelled at math and science. Now though, coding is being taught in elementary school. It’s believed that in the next few years coding will be as common place as Spanish or any other class kids take in their regular curriculum.
Coding isn’t just about creating computer software, games or apps. Coding teaches fundamental critical thinking skills, collaboration and problem solving. It also drives creativity and of course, it’s fun.
Those are some of the important factors addressed in a new book by Dr. Marina Umaschi Bers called “Coding as a Playground”, but her books not for elementary school students, it focuses on early childhood education, we’re talking 7 and under.
This year at ISTE 2017 in San Antonio there were just as many coding products and toys for kids under 7 as there were for kids in K-5. The Beebot and Bluebot from Terrapin Software teach kids the fundamentals of programming or coding as young as 4. The topics discussed in Bers book are important, and quite relevant.
Coding as a Playground: Programming and Computational Thinking in the Early Childhood Classroom is the first book to focus on how all young children (ages 7 and under) can learn STEAM thinking and problem-solving strategies, which is emerging as a general skills literacy that will be universally required in the 21st-century. In the book, Dr. Bers explores how coding is seen as a “new language”, and how it can be presented in a playful context, merging STEM/STEAM and coding with social-emotional learning. With Dr. Bers’ approach, students learn to be creators and collaborators with technology and with each other.
“Our ongoing research has shown that children can begin to learn computational thinking and sequencing skills at very young ages,” Dr. Bers explained. “Children are engaged in computational thinking when they break a task down into a series of small, sequenced steps; or when they create a simplified model to represent a complex problem; or even when they consider chains of cause and effect. These skills have a broad impact for students; sequencing skills are a predictor for academic success in literacy and reading as well as mathematics and other STEAM fields.”
Dr. Bers, the director of the DevTech Research Group at Tufts University as well as co-founder and chief scientist at KinderLab Robotics, Inc., is at the forefront of research into the impact of computational thinking and coding education in early childhood. With her team at Tufts, she conducts original and peer-reviewed research into the value of these skills for children in society. Dr. Bers’ research has led her to design several programming tools for young children in pre-K through 2nd grade, including the KIBO robot, a developmentally appropriate robotics construction set; and ScratchJr, a visual block-based programming language for tablets.
Bers’ newest book draws on her ongoing and groundbreaking research within the field of creative technology in early childhood education. Coding as a Playground provides a research-based framework describing how coding can be seen as a literacy of the 21st century and how it promotes developmentally appropriate experiences such as problem-solving, imagination, cognitive challenges, social interactions, motor skills development, emotional exploration, and making positive social choices. The book also offers practical ideas and teaching suggestions to help educators integrate coding into their classrooms and into different curricular areas.