So, do we learn to “code” or “program”?

According to the definitions of "code" and "program", the latter term comes closer to what we should wish to convey to our students.

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Automated English translation - (sometimes hilarious) mistakes can creep in! ;)

According to the definitions of "code" and "program", the latter term comes closer to what we should wish to convey to our students.


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What is conceived well is clearly stated
And the words to say it come easily

Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux


A link shared by Michel Guillou particularly caught my attention on April 25th. Teaching code at school? Really ? by Hubert Guillaud in Le Why is this article really interesting? He was probably the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.


(In the following text, the definitions of the words encode, code, program, computer program, and programming are those of the database Termium Plus © Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2017)


CODER is a computer science term standardized by CSA and ISO and means "to convert data by means of a code so that reverse transformation to the original form is possible and also used in cases. where complete reverse transformation is not possible ”.

CODED : fasymbolic lesson of representing data to facilitate automated processing, term and definition standardized by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 1993.

Is there only one way to represent this data? We usually read: learn the code, teach the code. What is this unique CODE that we discuss about student learning?


PROGRAM is the term for the action of Design, write, modify and test computer programs. Would we not try to introduce our students to learning the programming, standardized term for "all the work of designing, writing, modifying and testing programs". Wikipedia defines computer programs as "a set of operations intended to be performed by a computer '.

Programming is a two-part process:

A- Analyze a problem and design a solution. This process uses logical reasoning, decomposition and generalization, to analyze the problem and imagine the algorithms that will solve the problem effectively. This is the stage of the algorithmic.

B - The algorithm will be expressed in a programming language. The program instructions are transmitted to the machine in an encoded language, the source code.

Are we not getting closer to what might be interesting to teach students?


If we went back a few years, so few years

60 years ago the French word "computer" replaced the term "calculator" because the latter no longer represented the variety of work performed by these new data processing machines.

The first computers date back to 1950. It was John von Neumann and his collaborators who came up with the concept of "programWhich allows the machine to store both data and procedures in memory. This is the program that turned calculating machines into computers. These programs speak to the machine and their languages are translated by a compiler or interpreter.

50 years ago the French Academy gave this definition of computing: the science of processing, in particular by automatic machines, of information considered as the support of human knowledge and of communications in the technical, economic and social fields.

Termium Plus © defines computing as follows: All science and technology applicable to information processing using computers, term and definition standardized by CSA international and ISO / IEC.

Learning computer science goes beyond programming initiation. There is of course algorithmics and programming, but also understanding the computer and its peripherals, Raspberry Pi and Arduino, robotics, networks, data processing, digital literacy, living and working in cyberspace.

It is important to awaken the student to this new body of knowledge.

We can play ostrich, deny the profound changes in our societies, dream of yesterday. Open our eyes, the whole world has irreparably changed. Since the time of the great discoveries, our planet has become smaller and smaller. It takes less than 24 hours to go around it and just a few seconds for my computerized messages to cross the Atlantic. We are living in a new era of the great human saga on our beautiful blue planet, the digital age. Not because I use a computer, a smartphone, a GPS or whatever. The omnipresence of these technologies of the number transforms our way of being, of acting and of thinking and all humanity shares this new culture, the digital culture.

Change is happening at an astounding rate. A bit like rolling down a hill and feeling the crankset go wild. Do we not have a duty to integrate this new science into our teachings?

Computational thinking

Learning computer science, this science of information processing goes beyond the initiation to programming. Besides algorithmics, it is important to understand a little about the computer and its peripherals, Raspberry Pi, Arduino, robotics, networks, data processing, digital literacy, living and working in cyberspace, are some examples.

According to Wikipedia, the thoughtcomputational science, also named computer thought was postulated by Seymour Papert in 1980 and 1996 and dDefined as the reflective process involved in formulating problems and their solutions so that their resolution can be carried out by an information processor ... the synergy between the creative intelligence of the human being and the capacities of data processing offered by information and communication technologies.

More recently in 2006 Jeanette Wing published Computational Thinking. She says that computer thinking is a form of thinking, a set of skills that everyone can benefit from learning.

The very definition of computer thinking However, there is no consensus, the concepts and know-how vary according to the authors. Despite the variety, computational thinking remains a mainstay of computer literacy for students.

As for the criticism relating to the use of the French word thought to translate thinking, my consultation of dictionaries satisfies me fully.

Merriam-Webster, the English dictionary, presents this definition of thinking: thought that is characteristic (as of a period, group, or person) and I find in Larousse at thought : Set of ideas specific to someone, a group, etc.. : The pensChristian age.

So the computer thinking would be a set of ideas specific to this recent science which leads humanity towards nebulous shores.

Beyond learning programming, it is a whole digital culture to which it is important to introduce our students.

I agree with Mr. Guillaud the difficulty in amalgamating this new learning with elementary and secondary (or college) classes. This question will be the subject of a second post.

It is therefore to be continued!

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About the Author

Ninon Louise Lepage
Ninon Louise LePage is a pedagogue and museologist who recently came out of premature retirement to be reborn as an educational designation. She has taught at the Université du Québec à Montréal and the Université de Sherbrooke in science education, in addition to working at the Canadian Heritage Information Network as a museology consultant. She also writes for our French friends at Ludomag. She also invites all interested to contact her so that she can talk about you, your students, your school and your particular experiences in digital and computer education.

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