What is coding and where do I start?

  • Published: Monday, Dec. 16, 2019

With the release of state standards for computer science by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), new and greater emphasis will be placed on computer programming in the future. Programming, or “coding,” is the language of computers.

Stigma of Coding

There is often a stigma associated with coding. In its early days, coding was not easy. It seemed to take a great amount of effort just to do the simplest things. However, in the last five years, this has changed completely. New tools and platforms exist that make learning to code easy and even fun! This has brought coding back to the masses.

The table below has a few of the more common coding languages, uses, platform used to create them with and a common “gotcha” or two in learning the language. This is NOT and all inclusive list, just some examples that are popular in schools, libraries and makerspaces.

By far, the easiest to start with is blocks-based coding. There are many platforms available (most are FREE!) to teach coding using a blocks based approach, but by far the most popular are Code.org and Scratch, although there are many others. In coming blog posts, we will look deeper at these tools and talk about why they work so well and where they can take you!

Language Platform Level Uses Gotchas
HTML Any Beginner Websites/apps Syntax
CSS Any Beginner Websites/apps Syntax
JavaScript Any Beginner Websites/apps/games/robots Syntax
Java Any Intermediate/Advanced Websites/programs/robotics/data Depth, syntax, object oriented
Blocks based Any Beginner Games/robots Low ceiling
C# PC/web Intermediate/Advanced Multiple Depth, syntax, IDE
Python Any Intermediate Raspberry Pi/games Learning curve
Xcode Mac All iOS apps Apple only

With an estimated one million computer science-related jobs going unfilled worldwide according to this article by Full Scale and others, getting kids coding is critical. Marian Wright Edelman said “You can’t be what you can’t see.” Getting as many kids as possible in front of coding tools is the only way to help with this shortage. Coding might seem like a daunting, time-consuming and expensive skill to learn, but it's an increasingly important one to learn.