Why ELL Students Should Learn Code

February 20, 2016

ELLs learning to code

English-language learners (and disadvantaged students) stand to benefit the most from learning to code. Here are just a few reasons:

  • There is a huge demand in tech-related vocational jobs that are high paying ($70k/year,) that don’t require a university degree.
  • All coding languages (ex: HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, Python, PHP) are based in English – ELLs will see their English skills improve by learning to code.
  • Inexpensive equipment is all you need to learn to code- you could do it with very affordable computers like Chromebooks.
HTML code - note the use of English words.
↳ HTML code – note the use of English words.

A big demand for tech workers

Many of the vocational and factory jobs of the 1960’s are gone, or going away. But the great thing is, that they are quickly being replaced by technology related professions that are high paying, have great working environments, and the demand is only growing.

Jobs like:

  • Software developer / coder.
  • Robotics
  • Advanced Life Sciences
  • Cyber Security
  • Big Data
  • The Code-ification of money.

… In fact, you see traditional workers already moving to coding – coal miners for example.

Teaching students to code (and teaching them to think like coders) will help prepare your students for these jobs. The demand for these type of workers will continue to grow over the next 10-20 years and all these jobs DO NOT require a university degree. Certification is all that is required, if that!

What I look for when hiring coders

I’ve been employing coders since the late 1990’s, and I can tell you that I never put much weight into whether someone had a university degree. In the technology fields, we are looking for skills and practical experience, rather than university degrees.

English-language learners should start learning code as early as possible

Learning to code is as much about learning to think like a coder as it is a skillset. Repetition and a gradual introduction to the principles and techniques of coding is the key to learning code.

… It may take a little longer for ELLs to learn to code, and given this, it makes sense to introduce coding as soon as possible. How long it takes though, is not important. All that matters is they get there.

To help in the process, your students should be exposed to practical code projects and to the tools that coders use from the start.

Final comment

I recently came across a segment on MSNBC about this subject… it sums things up nicely. It gets to the point starting at the 2 minute mark.

Stefan Mischook

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