How Children Learn Human Values through Programming
Why children should be taught coding not as a technical skill but as a new literacy—a way to express themselves and engage with the world.
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.
“A book that will take readers by surprise—in a good way. Bers places the teaching of coding and robotics in a tradition of relational psychology, ethics, character development, and religion. A provocative and timely argument.”
Sherry Turkle, Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology, MIT; author of Reclaiming Conversation
“An outstanding and successful effort to return humanity to technology and to reintroduce it to education at an age when children have not yet been fully socialized through schooling.”
Zvi Bekerman, Seymour Fox School of Education, Hebrew University of Jerusalem; author of Psychologized Language in Educationco
“Marina Bers presents a more humanistic view of coding, sharing personal stories that highlight how coding can be a playground not just for learning technical skills but also for social, emotional, moral, and ethical development.”
Mitchel Resnick, Professor of Learning Research, MIT Media Lab; author of Lifelong Kindergarten
“In Beyond Coding, Marina Bers offers a stunningly beautiful and hopeful vision of what our relationships—to each other and to ourselves—can be when we connect the potential of computing to human values and virtues.”
Karen Brennan, Associate Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Education
"Many people espouse the view that learning how to code will ensure career success; Bers takes a refreshingly different tack, arguing that learning how to code is a new kind of literacy, one that prepares young people to think critically, solve problems, communicate effectively, and play well with others—even if they don't go into a tech-related profession… Fascinating reading for educators and educational researchers working in a variety of settings."