In this episode of the Pearson English Podcast, the panel speaks with author and editor Rhiannon Ball about the Coding Mindset and how to teach it. Let’s explore her views on this innovative way of thinking and how we can introduce it into the classroom.
What is The Coding Mindset?
Over the past decade, the ELT industry has placed more emphasis on soft skills. The focus has been on developing personal leadership qualities, creativity, problem-solving, teamwork and communication and collaboration skills. These are all essential skills for the future of work – and especially useful when students need to work better together and solve unexpected issues.
A coding mindset in particular encourages students to develop these important soft skills – and practice them like a coder would. Teachers can use activities and tasks in the classroom that are based on this mindset to help students develop strategies to analyze, understand and solve problems.
Rhiannon explains that this is integral to computational thinking and is how computer programmers think when coding.
Yet, she stresses that the coding mindset is a way of thinking. It does not directly relate to computer science. Rather, it follows the skills and mentality that coders and programmers use in their work. She believes that following this mindset will help learners to become more resilient and savvy when faced with challenges in their learning or daily lives.
4 benefits of The Coding Mindset
Rhiannon points out a number of benefits to developing this mindset.
1. Gain creativity skills
One major benefit of this way of thinking is that students learn to understand that not everything they try is going to work out just as they expect. In fact, it’s normal to fail a number of times when trying to solve problems.
In working to find new strategies to work through challenges, students are also developing their creativity skills.
At one time, creativity was synonymous with art, such as drawing or painting. However, she explains that this now means coming up with new ideas and is a skill that is particularly sought after by employers.
2. Learn how to cope in difficult times
We live in a world where we experience constant change – and we need to be able to find ways of managing. She says that a coding mindset teaches learners how to build resilience.
By openly communicating with others, evaluating ideas and discussing a range of options, students will be able to work through uncertainties and confront challenges.
Not only will this help students when coming up against stumbling blocks in their learning, it will also be beneficial in their day-to-day lives.
3. Create risk takers
Rhiannon recognizes that learning English isn’t easy and that students are bound to make mistakes in the process.
However, a coding mindset encourages students to take risks when approaching difficulties. It also helps language learners spot their mistakes and experiment with different options to find solutions.
Ultimately, learners become more willing to take risks which they need to do to reach a higher level of proficiency.
4. Develop the ability to overcome obstacles
When approaching a task with a coding mindset, students will learn how to focus on the important information. They will filter out any irrelevant details and find ways around barriers.
For example, if learners have to write a text about their last holiday in class, they could hit a wall if they don’t know how to use the 3rd conditional to explain something. Rather than giving up, students with a coding mindset would use the grammar they do know to complete the task. For instance, they can continue with the past simple or past continuous, explaining their story in a different way.
This encourages learners to focus on their strengths rather than weaknesses to overcome obstacles and keep going.
Practical activities for use in the classroom
Rhiannon shares with us a number of activities that teachers can use in the classroom to develop the coding mindset for their students. These include:
If you teach in a classroom with a whiteboard you can draw a series of colored circles on the board. The colors should follow a pattern which students have to work out in small groups and then continue the pattern on the board.
This simple exercise can be adapted for all levels and ages. You may even want to use flashcards with vocabulary, letters or number combinations.
A great way to develop trouble-shooting and problem-solving skills is by asking students to direct one another across the classroom. Put the learners into pairs and ask one of them to give directions and the other to follow.
They can practice imperatives and language for directions, while they break down problems into smaller, more manageable parts.
Creating treasure hunts works particularly well with young learners. If you have access to an outside space, you can hide classroom objects or flashcards around the space and give students clues as to where to find them.
You can also do this around the classroom or school if you do not have access to the outdoors. This will help them to think systematically and follow instructions.
Pixilation of pictures
If you have access to an interactive whiteboard, another way to develop problem-solving skills is by selecting some pictures from the internet and blurring them with a pixilation tool.
Choose vocabulary you’ve been working on in class so students are already familiar with the topic. Show the pictures on the whiteboard and ask students to work together in groups to guess what the pictures are.