Coding vs Technology: Are They The Same Thing?


Learning coding and learning about technology are two very different concepts.


In this blog post, I'll look into the difference between coding and technology and how they relate to each other.


I'll also discuss how schools teach these two separate topics and why coding benefits other academic subjects.


Let's start with what each term means.



Coding: What Is It?


Coding is a means of solving problems efficiently using the power of a computer. Computers are very fast at doing things, and they don't get bored doing repetitive things. They can also store lots of stuff in memory. These advantages make them better than humans at performing many tasks.

Coding is a means of solving problems efficiently using the power of a computer.

However, computers are not clever. They don't have the intelligence that humans—that's you and I—have or the experiences that allow humans to make decisions based on the context of a situation.

Therefore we have these fast and efficient computers that don't know what to do. This is where programming comes into the picture. A computer program is the set of instructions that tell the computer what we, humans, want it to do.

Coding sounds simple enough. The challenge with coding is translating human ideas into a step-by-step set of precise instructions that have no ambiguity. I often like to describe programming as a 'mindset', a way of thinking in which we can break down any idea we have into these steps, using a language that a computer can understand.

We have fast and efficient computers that are not clever and don't know what to do.

This is where programming comes into the picture.



Technology: What Is It?


Technology is a term that we all know, but that is not easy to define in a single, straightforward sentence. Nowadays, we would often think of advanced machinery and digital devices when we think of technology, and we may not all agree and what things can be classified as 'technology'.

The distinction between the makers and users of technology is important, especially when we discuss where coding fits in with technology.

When we talk about technology, we sometimes think of the people and processes needed to invent and create new technology. We think of the scientists and engineers who come up with new ideas and discoveries that lead to new inventions and new products that make our lives easier and more efficient. We may think of the factories or tools that make these new technologies.


At other times, however, we focus on technology from the point of view of the user of the technology. Parents often describe a child who is comfortable with using an iPad or a computer as 'good with technology'.

The distinction between the makers and users of technology is important, especially when we discuss where coding fits in with technology.



The Link Between Coding and Technology


Most technology today either has some form of computer within it or needed computers to make it. As I discussed earlier, computers are not clever, so anything they do is a result of a computer program that someone wrote.

For this reason, coding is at the heart of every modern technology. The makers of technology need to be proficient in coding as they need to tell the computers what to do to make or operate the item. This is one of the main reasons why learning to code has become a lot more important in recent years.

The computer code needed for all our technology is invisible to the user. Using technology does not require any coding knowledge, though. And being very good at using technology does not mean knowing how to code.

The confusion between using technology and coding comes in more often when the technology we refer to is computers. A computer is itself a technological item. Learning to use a computer effectively requires particular skills to be learned and practised. Not everyone is as comfortable using a computer. But no coding skills are required to use a computer. And someone who's an expert at using a computer may know no coding at all.

A good comparison is with another critical technological item in our lives: cars. Learning how to drive a car needs learning and lots of practice. Some people are better than others at driving a car. But the best drivers may have no clue how a car works, and they will almost certainly not be able to build one themselves.




Learning Coding vs Learning About Technology


How does all this relate to children's education? Children need to learn about technology, and they need to learn how to use computers and other essential devices in the modern world. But none of this requires them to know how to code.

However, separately from learning about technology, they should also learn how to code. This is a very different subject and skill than learning about technology, but it is just as important, if not more important, in today's world.

We can take the example of the curriculum in the UK to illustrate the shift in the education of technology, computing and coding.


Up until a decade ago, students in schools studies a subject called Information Technology or later Information and Communication Technology. These subjects are more commonly known as IT and ICT. These subjects focused on teaching children about technology and how to use it.


Although this is useful, educationalists realised that learning about how to use technology may not be such a long-term skill as technology will change. Also, children are quite good at learning how to use new things and don't necessarily need to be taught in a structured way.


In recent years there has been a shift towards learning Computing, which includes coding. The focus is more academic, and Computing takes a more long-term view of teaching a subject that students will need to be familiar with now and in the future.

When children and adults learn to code, they learn to solve problems in a clear and structured way.


Computing is a broad subject dealing with various aspects of computer science. Coding is one of the topics within this subject. Learning coding, however, goes beyond being able to write computer programs. When children and adults learn to code, they learn to solve problems in a clear and structured way. As Steve Jobs once said, everyone should learn to code as it teaches you how to think.


Coding can also be used as a way of teaching topics within other subjects as well. Science and Maths subjects are the most obvious ones, but other subjects can also benefit from having aspects of them explored through coding. Coding can therefore help with other academic subjects as well.




Coding In Technology And Beyond


Coding is a must-have requirement for anyone working on creating new technology. We all recognise that the software and apps on our computers, tablets and phones rely on coding to be made and function. But coding is found elsewhere too.


Many other devices that we may not recognise as 'computers' have a computer within them. Modern cars have computers within them that assist the mechanical parts of the vehicle. The same is true for other forms of transport such as trains and planes. We use many different devices every day with simple computers within them, such as traffic light systems and coffee machines, fridges, and cameras.


Coding is very closely linked with all the technological advancements in the recent past and present, and there is no doubt that all future technology will need coding in one form or another.

In the past year, when the whole world was concerned about the coronavirus pandemic, coding played a crucial role. Health services worldwide collected plenty of data about how the transmission of the virus and how the virus affected different people. Data scientists wrote computer programs to understand these data and provide governments and the general public with the latest information to help us know what's going on.

Coding is already an essential subject in our societies. It is very closely linked with all the technological advancements in the recent past and present, and there is no doubt that all future technology will need coding in one form or another.