As someone who works in the digital industry, I come across coding every day in many ways. It’s the building blocks of websites and applications, the things that touch us every day.
In countries like Estonia, children have been learning coding as part of their national curriculum for several years. In the UK we have made significant progress in introducing and promoting the importance of coding, including The Year of Code Campaign, which comprises a series of events throughout the year 2014 aimed at teaching children how to code.
As of September 2014, a brand new computing curriculum will be taught in all schools, which will focus on teaching kids to code, design programmes and understand the inner workings of a computer. This is in stark contrast to the old ICT programme, which focussed on computer literacy.
UK Engineering Director at Google, Mike Warriner, told the press: “The UK has a proud computing history but with more and more industries wanting computer scientists, coding has never been in more demand. It’s great that teachers will be trained with the skills they need to teach children from a young age and hopefully inspire the next generation of developers and programmers”.
The aim is for Britain to spearhead new technological developments, and to be the ideal setting for the launch of new companies in the technological sector.
What is Coding? Coding can be defined as fluency in reading and writing machine language, as well as the ability to think in a computational manner. Coding can be useful in a host of sectors, including mechanical engineering, biology, physics, archaeology and music. Coding is sometimes referred to as ‘computer programming’. It uses many different languages, created for different purposes.
In an enlightening speech given in 2012, Mitch Resnick of MIT Lab, Creator of the coding site for kids, Scratch, explains why coding is such a valuable skill for children to learn. He says that we should not be fooled into thinking that our children are ‘digital natives’ simply because they are comfortable with a Smartphone or tablet device. Rather, we should aim to make them truly fluent in the language of computers by teaching them how to code. “Children have lots of experience and familiarity in interacting with technology, but they are a lot less capable of creating new technology and expressing themselves using new technology.”
It is almost, he notes, as though children know how to read but not to write; yet to survive and excel in the modern world, we all need to write and when it comes to future generations, they will all need to code. Coding helps us live life to the fullest in many ways – it enables us, for instance, to make our own computer games, or websites, to tell animated stories or create interactive artwork.
Coding opens up new horizons for children and it teaches them vital skills, which include:
- Design: Coding allows children to dream up a project and break it up into smaller components. It inspires creativity and deep thought, since children have to work out one or more ways (the best way) to give life to their project.
- Social Interaction: Since coding can be complex, children benefit from working together to solve an issue or improve the quality of the programme they have designed. This process enables children’s multiple intelligences to shine through, since one child may produce a unique solution others have not thought of, owing to his particular means of processing information.
- Systematic Thinking: Coding encourages children to follow a system to get from Point A to Point B, honing in on their organisational skills.
- Personal Fulfilment: Coding can be used to enrich our personal lives – it allows us to create a programme for a loved one, create an original interactive artwork or send them a personalised card on important occasions.
- Confidence: Coding is very simple at first and when the subject is presented in an attractive way, as it is on sites such as Scratch, children can grow increasingly confident in their own abilities. Moreover, when they design a programme that can be useful to others, it can be a fabulous feeling. Indeed, thanks to coding, children are never too young to change the world.
Useful Resources for Adults and Kids to Learn Coding Together:
One of the best things about being a parent or teacher is the opportunity it offers to learn a host of skills we would never encounter in our daily lives. One of these is coding. If you’d like to give a child a head start, try one or more of these top resources:
- Scratch: Scratch make learning how to code fun and an enjoyable experience. Kids just think they are having fun, while they learn the basics of programming and complete one or more of over five million projects.The latter include animations, games, music and dance projects, stories, video sensing and more. Scratch is designed for those aged eight to 16, though younger children can also use it by working alongside their parents.
- Move the Turtle: This App, made for use with an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad, is meant for children aged around 10 and upwards. It introduces them to the basics of coding with the help of an adorable little turtle. Don’t let the cute graphics fool you, though; the game can be quite complex and children need to be very confident with their reading and comprehension to complete each activity to complete set tasks.
- Mozilla Thimble: This online application, ideal for kids aged around 12, invites children to make their own webpage and modify existing webpage projects. Kids need a Mozilla account to log in, though the latter is free and all that is required is an email. Kids can publish their completed projects online and see what other budding coders are up to as well.
- Kodale Pro: This iPad App is ideal for children as young as six, since it introduces them to the basics of logic and coding in an easy, fun way. The App provides a ‘Guided Access’ option for parents, so they can make sure that children complete one task before jumping on to the next one. Written lesson plans are also provided.
I hope that you have found this blog post useful. If you have any tips on how to teach your children to learn to code then please feel free to share them with us below.