Developing literacy involves acquiring new skills and ways of thinking about ourselves and the world. Early childhood is a critical time for children to learn how to read and write, to transition from oral language to written language, as well as to learn other languages. Reading and writing are tools for meaning making and, ultimately, tools of power because they support new ways of thinking.
Today, we have the opportunity to not only teach children how to think by using natural languages, but also by learning artificial languages – programming languages. Those are the languages understood by the “smart” objects that surround us.
The Coding as Another Language project explores in which ways the process of teaching coding to young children can resemble the educational process used for teaching literacy and a second language and seeks to identify the overlapping associated cognitive and cultural mechanisms.
The Coding as Another Language project involves several dimensions: 1) the creation of programming environments, such as KIBO robotics and ScratchJr explicitly designed with a literacy approach, 2) resources, such as the CAL (Coding as Another Language) curriculum for ScratchJr and KIBO, which present the process of coding as a semiotic act, a meaning making activity, and not only a problem-solving challenge, 3) a theoretical framework proposed by Prof. Bers, which is described in her book Coding as a Playground, 4) a pedagogical approach with professional development strategies that explicitly highlight the connection between the activity of coding and the mastering of a language and its uses to convey meaning, 5) research studies in classrooms to understand the affordances of this approach compared to others, 6) experimental studies in lab settings to characterize cognitive mechanisms using fMRI to explore if the language networks in the brain activate when programming.
There are Visit the Coding as Another Language site here:
CAL has gone through many iterations, past versions can be viewed here.
In addition to implementing the CAL curricula within the United States, DevTech has also partnered with multiple groups around the world to bring the CAL curriculum to children across the globe.
DevTech has partnered with Comunidad Atenea and the Varkey Foundation to implement CAL-ScratchJr in 60 classrooms throughout Argentina. The CAL-ScratchJr curriculum, as well as all study materials, have been translated to Spanish– allowing the partners are Comunidad Atenea to fully replicate DevTech’s CAL Impact Study.
DevTech Research Group has also partnered with the Mindful Learning Technologies Lab, run by researcher Rinat Kima-Rosenberg at the Technion Institute of Technology, in Haifa, Israel. Through this partnership, both CAL-KIBO and CAL-ScratchJr are being translated into Hebrew and implemented in kindergarten classrooms at the Hod HaCarmel School.