Most Kids Struggle with Learn to Code Websites

Most Kids Struggle with Learn to Code Websites

In the past I have shared articles written by Sheena Vaidyanathan. Mrs. V is a local thought leader in the kids programming space and on the front lines bringing coding into the classroom. She is a rotating teacher for all the Los Altos School District schools, leading classes for elementary students and also teaching the teachers how to lead coding classes themselves.

Mrs. V’s most recent article is We Need Coding in Schools, but Where are the Teachers? In the article she refutes the notion that you can’t train teachers with language arts backgrounds to program. The teachers are looking to empower their students, it is just a matter of finding the lifelong learners willing to put in the effort.

The whole article is worth a read, but let me share one particularly important segment:

As a computer science teacher who teaches several programming classes each week in California’s Los Altos school district (LASD), I find “learn to code” sites do work for a few of my students. These are students who are motivated and believe they will be able to program. They are willing to search for solutions and put in the time needed. My main role as their teacher is usually to suggest new projects or modifications to their existing work.

But what about the many others for whom these “learn to code” sites do not work?

The vast majority of my students do very well on their first hour or two of coding using structured lessons, but when they start to write code for a new problem, or hit the first set of bugs, they get frustrated and need help. Sometimes, all they need is a hint, a pointer to a similar problem, or my assurance that they can solve it. In some cases, they need someone to just re-explain it a little differently.

One of my students commented recently:

“I watched the tutorials … but I think it really helps to have someone in person to ask questions and explain to you. I learned a lot more about why things are happening too.”

Based on my 4+ years experience teaching about 500 sixth graders programming each week, I believe most younger students need a human teacher to inspire, motivate and guide them as they begin to code. If they do not have access to a teacher, they will quickly move into the “I tried coding and I cannot do it” camp. Girls and minorities, who carry the added burden of believing they do not fit the typical programmer stereotype, even more critically need a teacher at this crucial early stage.

Teaching kids to code isn’t a content problem, it is a people problem. You need someone capable of guiding the student’s education and helping them when they get stuck. This exactly the problem Breakout Mentors solves with a 1-on-1 mentor. Contact us today to find out how we can help.

Photo: JosephB
Posted by Brian Skinner / Posted on 23 Dec
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