Fellow student Fiona Rose also had a look at this question, and wrote about the phenomenon of games that teach programming skills. While her son sadly didn't jump on the bandwagon to tell us how good it was, there are apparently many others out there in the virtual world who are learning from games, and happily spruiking their benefits.
ABC Splash is a website full of free digital educational resources, created by the good old ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). They too jumped on the 'coding bandwagon' last year, sponsoring an 'Hour of Code', a national initiative to kickstart this educational skill. They discuss this 'must-learn skill' in their article by Daniel Donahoo, “Should all kids learn to code?”
As Daniel points out, the massive ICT industry that has revolutionised our whole society is of course built on computer programming languages. Therefore digital literacy should be considered “as important as literacy or numeracy”. Language in any form is a highly useful tool, and in an era where education's focus is shifting towards creativity, then this is definitely a tool that students will need to add to their toolbelts.
However, do all students really need to learn this? Surely not every child yearns to be the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates? And we can't honestly expect everyone to be programming computers in the future can we?
The answer lies in our perception of the issue. Rather than worrying so much about programming or coding, we need to be thinking about logic, the pure basic thinking that underlies coding.
Logic is a skill that can be applied to more areas than just ICT. Logic is the study of valid reasoning. It goes hand in hand with critical thinking. It is the backbone of developing problem-solving skills, which is what students will need in the 'unknowable future', rather than specific skills that may or may not be obsolete by the time our students leave school.
I feel that the teaching of coding skills is still highly desirable, as it teaches students to think creatively, as well as engaging them in fun & exciting student-centred tasks. It even helps with my personal issue of 'turning toys into tools', or encouraging purposeful play. But we mustn’t lose sight of the real skill behind all the hype, which will teach them to think critically as well. Hopefully this will prove to be far more beneficial in the long run, even in the jobs that haven't been invented yet.