19 January 2012


An interesting online course has started a few weeks ago, called CodeYear, organized by Codecamedy,  a start-up created by Zach Sims and Ryan Bubinski.  The course takes one year and stimulates participants to take up the challenge to learn coding.  The focus is on object-oriented programming, in particular Java.

Screenshot CodeYear homepage, January 18

I've signed in and completed the problems for the first week.  The exercises are small chunks and introduce gradually the Java syntax.  For every problem you can access a forum with  Q&A for that specific problem.  Gradually you build up "achievements" and "badges", intended to motivate you to continue.  It is unclear for me whether a certificate or 'badge' can be printed when reaching the end of the course.

The course works more as a clever tutorial for me, though, rather than an online course like MOOCs (e.g. change11) or my OU course.  There are no speakers, no clear course facilitators and interaction with other participants is rather absent (except through the Q &A forum).  

Apparently, the idea is to expand the course with assignments submitted by users.  That could be interesting, as it would lift the course from a nice introductory programming course to a collaborative and evolving course, in which you deal with real-life coding examples.

Screenshot on Return function (Week 2), CodeYear

The course relates to the wider discussion on what should be in a school's ICT curriculum.  Should programming skills be considered as a basic digital literacy skill, as writers such as Douglas Rushkoff state?

“In 20 years, programming will be just another blue-collar job or related to almost every major employment field,” (Mr. Sims, co-founder Codecademy)

(NY Times)

"Children are being forced to learn how to use applications, rather than to make them. They are becoming slaves to the user interface and are totally bored by it," he said.  (Mr. Livingstone, author Next Gen report)
        (BBC News)

I find it worthwhile to have the discussion whether a school ICT curriculum should move beyond learning to work with expensive, corporate software programmes.  I believe that programming would do more to develop children's analytical skills, and also creativity.  Crucially, it will enable children to change their viewpoint of the internet as something you use, but cannot change to something you can shape.  
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