We’re living in the Digital Age, and coding is slowly but gradually becoming a new kind of literacy. Given that, I believe that learning programming skills will be as necessary as learning the alphabet or counting for children all over the world. I also think that introducing children to the world of algorithms and sequences develops their problem-solving skills, fosters collaboration, and encourages creativity.
But what is the purpose of children learning such complicated things that early? There is a general assumption that kids should learn to code because we need more computer scientists. More programmers, they say, will help us shape our digital world better, and, you know, it won’t be all that bad for the economy.
Coding for kids is a totally creative process – it starts from scratch and ends with something more significant. While it’s true that big tech companies such as Google, Facebook, Apple, Tesla are snapping up future professionals, there are far more interesting and compelling arguments. I mean, it goes much further than just “because it’s great for GDP.” Let’s find out what these reasons are.
Coding develops creative self-expression
Coding for both adults and kids is a creative process. Just like painting or cooking, with coding, the child benefits from pure satisfaction and joy. Just imagine: something that starts from scratch ends with a tangible result.
The opportunities are limitless. In the material world, creativity is often limited by the tools we have at our disposal, like ingredients when we cook or canvas when we paint. But with programming, where the virtual world is endless, the only border is the child’s imagination.
Programming requires persistence and problem solving
Anyone who has dealt with code will tell you that writing programs can be quite tricky. Simply put: coding can be frustrating if not disappointing.
However, as a computer scientist and educator Sheena Vaidyanathan says, in this case, this is certainly good. Children learn that if something is not working, they can do it again in a different way and fix it.
Having plunged into programming and faced with the problem of coding, children learn to look at things from the other side: “If A + B doesn’t work, maybe A + C will.” Through programming, children learn to look at things from the other side when faced with a problem.
Children learn by thinking about what to do
The grandfather of coding education, Seymour Papert, was a big proponent of learning using programmable robots for children. He was also a huge advocate of the new ways that learning is offering. He once stated that “you learn, but you learn better by thinking about what you are doing. I think this is the most important thing.“
Basically, thinking about what you want to do step by step before you do it improves the learning process.
But kids also learn to think about thinking
Papert also talked about the discovery and the feeling of a miracle that one experiences when doing something right in programming. “By teaching the computer how to think, children begin to learn how they think themselves”.
For me, that’s the most compelling argument. What’s more, computational thinking is a precious thinking tool – perhaps a purely 21st-century thinking tool. The one that can be applied throughout our lives to incredible effects.
To Sum Up
Nowadays, there are countless web applications that address specific business challenges and needs. It seems like the demand for web development services will only grow in the future. Even if your child chooses some other career, the advantages of coding are evident. This way, it’s only advisable to start as soon as possible.
Modern children grow with technology at hand. It’s time for them to take a look at the other side. Here’s Matt Lerner, VP Product & Design at Walkscore on the matter: “I wanted to teach my kids programming because it is a great skill and a powerful way of thinking. My kids spent a lot of time playing Angry Birds on my iPhone, and I decided it was time for them to look behind the curtain and learn how programming works”.
We are surrounded by technology, and this area will only grow thanks to the Internet of Things. The speed of innovation is incredible, and more and more children will take this career path. However, as a parent, you should make sure that there’s a balance between learning technology skills and be human.