EdSurge: How Coding Teaches Virtuous Skills Like Patience

In this Op-Ed, our co-founder and Chief Scientist, professor and inventor Marina Umaschi Bers, shares an excerpt from her upcoming book, Beyond Coding: How Children Learn Human Values through Programming”, about how coding and robotics help students learn human virtues.

The article reads in part:
“When it comes to teaching students to code, and the skills and ideas they will learn, it can help to think of a painter’s palette. But in this metaphor, instead of thick daubs of oil paint, imagine a collection of virtues and values.

Just like the painter, who chooses different colors to make her palette, so does the educator or the parent who intentionally chooses virtues for children to explore while they are creating their own coding projects. In this way, programming becomes an opportunity for moral and ethical development as well as social and emotional growth.

In my palette of virtues, I chose to place ten universal values, based on decades of observing the kinds of interactions, behaviors and attitudes happening in coding environments: curiosity, perseverance, patience, open-mindedness, optimism, honesty, fairness, generosity, gratitude and forgiveness. The metaphor of the palette of virtues reminds us that coding is not only a science but also an art produced by creativity and imagination, situated within the diversity of the human experience.

When they learn in what I call the “coding playground,” children can experiment with technical problem-solving while also exploring values, virtues and character strengths. Playgrounds evoke the feeling of having fun in a social space. Children not only run around but also learn to negotiate and communicate. Conflicts are solved and ethical dilemmas arise.

In the coding playground, socioemotional development does not take a back seat; good teachers plan their lessons, but great teachers know how to slow down if the opportunity rises, for example, to explore one of virtues in the palette.

How does it work? I’ll show you, using the virtue of patience as an example. Here we enter Ms. Shah’s kindergarten class, which is using a robotics kit to teach coding (and some virtues along the way.).

Read on to see the excerpt about Patience (and the whole article).