It’s Never Too Early: Why All Kids Should Learn to Code
Introducing coding to your kids can be a challenge, especially for those who aren’t familiar with the world of coding themselves. Have a look at the benefits of learning to code and resources for young coders.
The world is changing.
Before, there were 3 Rs: Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic. Now there there is a fourth: Coding. Coding is being introduced into school curriculums all around the world.
Australia is introducing the Digital Curriculum this year. Christopher Pyne, who was Education Minister when the move was first announced, said it was because ““High quality school STEM education is critically important for Australia’s productivity and economic wellbeing, both now and into the future”.
In September 2014, the UK replaced ICT with Computing, to reflect the fact that most kids are tech natives and already have those skills. Singapore ran a Code for Fun pilot program in 12 schools in 2014. The province of British Columbia, Canada, has just announced plans to add coding to the high school curriculum. Premier Clark noted “Tech companies will locate in places where they can find the people that will be capable of doing the work”, and so he wanted to make it so more B.C. people could do the work.
In 2012, Estonia introduced coding in primary schools, starting with first grade. Why so early? “We want to change thinking that computers and programs are just things as they are. There is an opportunity to create something, and be a smart user of technology,” says ProgeTiiger coordinator Ave Lauringson. Many other countries in the EU have implemented coding classes in primary schools, including: Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Hungary, Ireland, Lithuania, Malta, Spain, Poland, Portugal, and Slovakia.
Coding is not just for the working world
When I was younger, as a hobby I used to read about politics, mythology, business, and history. Now, kids are programming plugins and drones and arduinos and games instead…or as well!
One example is 12-year-old app developer, Thomas Suarez, who recently spoke at TED, and has been coding since he was only six! Along the way, he learnt marketing by designing apps to appeal to people at his school. Other kids like Thomas are developing apps for social purposes, too. Fourteen year old Trisha Prabhu became a finalist in Google Science Fair for designing a Chrome browser plugin designed to prevent cyberbullying.
“I think having a background of coding is an essential 21st-century skill, and something that will come to good use in any career path you might pursue,” Trisha told Cogito.org.
Why must kids learn to code?
Learning code teaches kids programming fundamentals, formal logic, and much more. At the core, children learn how to break down a problem into its constituent elements, and create an effective solution.
‘So what’, you ask? Well, the benefits of coding skills extend far beyond the screen. For example:
- It prepares kids for the world they live in — lots of jobs involve understanding limitations and capabilities of code if you do like marketing, design, e-commerce, data science.
- They will be also better able to understand what the software they use can do and why, and be less afraid of it. They will also be able to find the niches where code can’t substitute for the human mind yet, and take advantage of that. In a world that is constantly asking people to start preparing for work earlier and earlier, this can only be a good thing.
- If they learn computational thinking and design patterns while learning to code, they’ll be able to code in any coding language. Coding has many uses, which include: designing a game, speeding up a process at work, creating a calculator to simplify decision making, making people laugh by building a one-pager around a meme…the list goes on.
- Kids who learn how to code will be better able to understand how the world around them works. Code Rules Everything Around Us.
- Solving a problem with code gives kids confidence they can build something. The feeling that they can control & influence the world around them is powerful, and will make them more assertive and confident later in life.
- Kids learn better & faster when young. Why not take advantage of that?
- By designing programs intended for other people’s use, kids can learn how people think. This can teach them empathy.
- Kids could end up learning marketing by proxy by encouraging people to use their work.
- The urge to complete a project can encourage a habit of self-directed learning. This drive can be applied to learning how to do many other things.
What’s the holdup?
Teachers around the world mostly do not have the skillset required to teach programming, and some may not have the aptitude. Self-taught students have taken on the role of the teacher in many classrooms, instructing their classmates as well as their teacher. In the UK, only 15% of teachers judged themselves as “completely computer savvy”. Only 40% had the ability to teach the classes in the UK Computing curriculum. In Australia, the stats would be very similar, if not worse.
But there’s a solution.
There’s a course for that
At Coder Factory we have two 1 day workshops to make programming easier to understand for teachers. Coding and the Digital Curriculum covers the capabilities of technology to solve problems, goes through the process of software development, and runs through an explanation of the design of the Digital Curriculum. Hands On Coding somewhat follows on from that. It explains programming concepts, and then leads teachers through how to build a simple web application.
We also have courses where teachers and high school students can learn alongside each other. Highschool Coder will be on soon, during the school holidays. It’s a fun exercise where students work together to being a social network. In Deeper Dive, we have a term long hackathon where students can work together to create a solution to solve a community or school problem.
It’s easier than ever to start
Drag and drop programming apps like Scratch and Hopscotch are making it easier than ever for kids to start learning to code. Twelve year old Hopscotch games developer, Kedai, chose it because she found typing everything out too confusing.
“I was wondering how people made games like Minecraft and others — how all of that worked,” she said in the Hopscotch Q&A.
Coding is a skill anyone can pick up with practice! “Nobody actually teaches you how to get good at coding, and even if they try, you have to figure it out for yourself to get really good,” Kedai said. When she grows up, she wants to be a coder, or maybe an engineer.
At Coder Factory, we teach Scratch to primary schoolers at Redfern Community Centre each week. Ruegen Aschenbrenner, Coder Factory’s teaching assistant, says: “Scratch is a drag and drop programming language that is designed to make programming fun. It gets past the syntax so all kids have to do is think about how to complete the challenge set. In Scratch, you grab blocks and place them in the ‘code’. When put in the right combination, the ‘functions’ can perform actions.”
I’ll finish with a word from a Year 11 UK student quoted in the International Business Times:
“Computing is a lot different because there are so many cool things you can do. With ICT all you have to do is basically ‘learn this’ and ‘learn that’, but computing is ‘when you learn this and learn that, you can put your knowledge all together into one and make a program that works.”
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