In a world full of new devices and technologies, many worry about young students developing some of the most essential professional and life skills—soft skills. Topping the list of concerns is communication skills. How will our kids learn to communicate with one another when their faces are always buried in some sort of screen?
Perhaps surprising to some, learning to code and learning communication skills actually go hand in hand! Not only does communication naturally occur in coding classrooms, but good communication also helps students improve their coding skills more quickly. We’ve witnessed four different types of communication that are typical in coding classrooms and that are easy for educators to encourage:
Communicating with peers
Communication with adults is a key way for students to expand their vocabulary and language mastery. At the same time, communication with peers is critical for development. Since peers have similar vocabulary levels and use common slang, they are well-suited to work through problems together. Through clear communication, they can make sense of challenges and acquire new coding skills more quickly. Teachers should ensure students have plenty of time to work together, especially when tackling tough tasks. This collaborative process can push students to better describe and support their computational solutions to coding activities – further engaging their communication muscles.
Communicating with devices
In a well-run computer science classroom, teachers create group projects that challenge kids’ computational thinking. In these projects, students work together to apply their understanding of how computers and programming languages work. For example, in this Tablets of Stone activity by CS Unplugged, students examine different kinds of communication and how they work. These projects combine communication with each other and communication with each other’s devices—or interpersonal and technical communication.
Communicating with users
In most cases, student projects in computer science will be meant for an end-user other than the creator. A key skill that courses like game design and web development teach, is how to empathize with users and communicate clearly with someone through UX and UI. Students learn how many details can go into a great user experience. Would a button that changes when you hover on it be a clearer choice for users than one that remains static? Is the game easier to understand if I state directions this way or that way? These types questions are constantly raised in coding classrooms, and they teach students about the breadth and depth of what it takes to communicate clearly.
Learning relies on constructive feedback. Coding classrooms hold the potential not only for teachers to provide such feedback to students but also for students to provide this feedback to one another. While learning to code together, students can learn to share both criticism and helpful alternatives and speak genuinely and positively with one another about each other’s work. Learning to code is all about solving problems with creative solutions, so providing students opportunities to do those things together also gives them the opportunity to learn to share feedback.
Communication is key in coding as it is elsewhere in school and life. Through working together on projects, or collaborating, students can get creative, think critically, and practice communicating clearly—four skills that will serve them well for years to come.