As the world becomes more technological, so does language. People today use hundreds of words that people of the past (the very recent past) would never have even heard of. Did any of us know what WiFi was thirty years ago?
Some children pick up these modern words before they’ve even started school. They hear their parents complaining about bad WiFi, and quickly work out that the strange little box with the blinking lights is the oh-so-important router.
But there are other words that kids are unlikely to learn from a parent. Words like decomposition, packet, and algorithm. That’s why we decided to put together this list of terms. Share it with your kids, and teach them the difference between clouds and clicks.
An algorithm is a set of instructions that tell a computer what to do. Computers always follow instructions in the order they are given, like a human following a recipe. Coders need to write good algorithms, just as chefs need to write good recipes.
Abstraction is another important coding term. It helps us to simplify something long and complicated into a smaller, less terrifying form. Basically, it involves ignoring the parts that we don’t need to worry about, and only looking at the parts that actually matter. For example, if we’re trying to fix a problem, we don’t need to look at the code for our entire computer. We just need to look at a piece of it — the part which is causing the problem.
Artificial intelligence is when a computer thinks for itself. We’re not talking about sentient talking robots. We’re talking about computers that know how to deal with new situations which they weren’t originally coded for. This counts as ‘thinking’ — instead of sticking to their step-by-step instructions, they branch out and do something new.
Binary is the secret language at the heart of every computer. It’s made up of millions of zeroes and ones: 01101000 01101001. These numbers don’t mean much to us, but they mean everything to a computer. Even when we give a computer instructions in English, it translates them into binary before knowing what it needs to do.
A bit is a teeny, tiny piece of information. You know what we said about binary? Every 0 and every 1 is a bit. Eight bits is called a byte. A thousand bytes is called a kilobyte. A thousand kilobytes is called a megabyte. A thousand megabytes is called a gigabyte. A thousand gigabytes is called a terabyte… That’s a lot of bits.
Block-based coding lets people write algorithms using visual blocks instead of words. You can drag these blocks around the screen, try lining them up in different orders, and see how the computer responds. It’s great for beginners and is usually the way that kids are taught to code.
Sometimes, your code won’t work. Why won’t it work? There’s a bug. Basically, it’s a glitch in the system. Something which makes your computer behave in an unexpected way. You clicked on a button, and nothing happened? That’s probably a bug.
This is a style of writing that coders use. The first word always starts with a lowercase letter, then all the other words start with an uppercase letter. Also, there aren’t any spaces between words: “likeThis.” You’ve probably seen examples of camel cases. iPhone and eBay are a couple of examples. It’s called a camel case because that capital letter right in the middle sticks up like a camel’s hump.
This one is pretty obvious. A click is when you press the button on your computer mouse, or when you press down on your trackpad if you’re a laptop user. It’s simple but important – there’s no easier way to tell your computer what to do.
Traditionally, people would store all their files on their own computers, but in recent years, they’ve started using clouds instead. These are storage places somewhere far away, which you access using an internet connection. It’s like having a personal library floating in the sky, which you can visit using your computer, or your phone, whenever you like.
We’ve been defining all these coding words, but we haven’t defined coding yet. In simple terms, it’s the process of writing instructions for a computer to follow. A good coder can use code to make websites, games, apps, and other digital things.
A command is a single, simple instruction that a coder can give to a computer. For example, “run this program” or “open this file”. An algorithm is made up of lots of commands in a long, step-by-step chain. To use another cooking analogy, the algorithm is the recipe that tells you how to make a cake, and the commands are each step, like “add the flour” or “stir the mix”.
A conditional is a piece of code that helps a computer to make a decision. It checks if a certain condition is true, then performs an action based on the result. For example, if the user clicks a button, then the computer will play a song. If the user doesn’t press the button, the song won’t play. In real life, people use conditionals all the time. If it’s raining, then you’ll bring an umbrella with you; if it’s not raining, then you won’t bother.
The world can be a dangerous place. We lock our doors at night to protect our homes from criminals, and we need to take steps to protect our computers too. Cybersecurity is like a tightly locked door that protects our computers from harm. These are programs designed to keep our systems safe from cyber threats like viruses, hacking, and data breaches.
Data is information that is stored on a computer. It can be numbers, words, or pictures. Think of it like a big library full of books, with each book full of important information about different things. Those books are the data, and your computer is the library. Unless you’re using a cloud, of course. Then the library is somewhere else.
Debugging is the process of finding and fixing the bugs in your computer code. This makes sure that your computer program runs smoothly without any glitches. Debugging is probably a coder’s most important skill. If one thing is certain in computer coding, it’s that your code won’t run properly on the first try.
Decomposition is a process in coding where you break a complex task into smaller, more manageable parts. This makes it easier to understand and solve a problem. We use decomposition in real life too. Instead of thinking about all the things we need to do this week, we concentrate on doing things day by day.
A digital citizen is someone who uses technology safely and responsibly, respecting other people and protecting personal information. If you imagine the internet as a giant city, the digital citizens are the good, well-behaved people who live in the city, and help each other out, and don’t break any rules or laws.
A digital footprint is the trail of data that we all leave behind when we’re using the internet. It includes things like online activity, posts, and searches. Whenever we visit a website, the website notices us, and makes a little note that we visited. That’s our digital footprint, like the marks we make when we walk across a beach.
DNS stands for Domain Name System. It’s like a phonebook for the internet. Basically, when we type in a web address, the DNS takes us to the place we want to go. Just like when we type a person’s name into our phone, and it calls that person’s number. Without the DNS, web addresses would be completely meaningless, and wouldn’t take us anywhere at all.
Input is an instruction that you give to your computer. For example, a mouse click is a type of input that tells a computer what you want it to do. The computer then processes this information to produce an output.
The Internet is a giant network of computers that allows people all over the world to share information and communicate with each other through websites, emails, and other online tools. It’s hard to imagine a life without the internet, and even harder to believe that people used to live without it!
A loop in coding is like a repeating pattern. It allows the computer to run a set of instructions multiple times, making it easier to perform the same task over and over. The computer keeps doing the same thing until it’s told to stop.
Machine learning is a type of computer program that can learn and improve by analyzing data, without being explicitly programmed to do so. It’s like a clever robot that gets better at doing a task the more it does it. This is an important part of artificial intelligence, and it’s getting more and more advanced all the time.
An output is the thing that a computer does after you give it an instruction. For example, when you press the power button (that’s the input) the computer turns on (that’s the output). There are millions and millions of examples of outputs. When you click a link (input) a website opens (output). When you say “Alexa: play some music” (input) your Alexa plays a song (output).
A packet is a small amount of data that travels over the internet. It’s like sending a letter through the mail. Instead of sending your data in one big envelope, your computer breaks it down into lots of tiny envelopes and sends them one at a time. The packets join together again when they reach their destination.
A sprite is a small, moving graphic, like a character or object in a video game. It is made up of pixels, which are tiny dots that come together to form a picture. Sprites are a good way to think about inputs and outputs. Maybe, when you press the space bar (input) the sprite will jump in the air (output).
At the start of this post, we talked about WiFi. Let’s finish this list by defining it. Wifi is a way for computers and devices to talk to each other. Instead of using wires, it sends information through the air. The invention of WiFi was a massive step in the history of computers. It lets us connect to the internet quickly and easily, without needing to worry about plugging anything in.
Are you using WiFi to read this post? Maybe! It’s become a very important part of life. In fact, you could say the same for most of the words on this list. From inputs to outputs, from data to DNS, most of us encounter these things every single day.