I just read a very interesting article from EdSurge, an educational technology information online resource that focuses on the benefits of coding, describing how kids who have difficulty in other subjects can sometimes find hidden strengths in their ability to work with code. The author Kimberly Rues, writes: ”In every classroom where I’ve given kids the chance to dig into coding, the students who shine are those who struggle at almost everything else. They very often thrive. They step into a leadership role, offering peer coaching to classmates who usually run circles around them.”
I find this observation to be fascinating for a couple of reasons. First, it offers another confirmation of Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. One of the criteria of Gardner’s eight intelligences is that each one uses different symbol systems. The one I’m working with right now — the English language – is a linguistic” symbol system, and some kids, notably those who are diagnosed with dyslexia, have significant difficulty mastering this particular ”code.”
But Gardner also talks about another intelligence – logical-mathematical — which uses a different set of symbol systems, including the number system (1, 2, 3, …), the algebraic system (x = y²/a x b) and any of the variety of computer languages that are out there (Java, C++, Visual Basic etc.). Some kids may have dyscalculia with the number system (trouble calculating using arithmetic), yet shine when working with computer codes. And this seems to be the case with the students Kimberly Rues has worked with.
Another reason I find Ms. Rues’ observations fascinating, is that they support the idea of neurodiversity; that kids who struggle with some school subjects, such as math and reading, can shine in other areas. Neurodiversity, as I’ve written about it, is strength-based; in other words, rather than focusing on what kids CAN’T do, educators need to focus on what they CAN do. If computer coding wasn’t taught in classrooms, there would be no way to recognize the strengths and abilities of those kids who may be failing in other subjects but have a natural inclination to do well with coding.
I think it’s interesting that in Great Britain, people with dyslexia are utilized to break codes to help thwart electronic eavesdropping, because they see patterns that others might miss. Neurodiversity teaches us all to value the positive assets that each person possesses. So teachers, I think you should strongly consider bringing coding into your classrooms so that you can watch kids who struggle with school subjects, finally come alive! One way to get started is to go to the site Hour of Code, and make use of the tutorials there.
For more information about the theory of multiple intelligences, get my book 7 Kinds of Smart: Identifying and Developing Your Multiple Intelligences (Plume).
To learn more about neurodiversity, see my book The Power of Neurodiversity: Unleashing the Advantages of Your Differently Wired Brain (DaCapo)
This post was brought to you by Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D. and www.institute4learning.com.
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