A note from Sarah: Our community is growing! Since I first started writing this blog , I have been working hard to bring together a group of passionate teachers, parents, educators and professionals to provide you, our readers, with quality content that informs, insights and excites. This is the first post from one of our new MakerBloksBlog Contributors, Lisa, who will talk to you about how important it is to introduce kids to coding. You can read more about her in her bio (below), and get to know her in her many more posts to come. Welcome, Lisa!
There’s a big push right now to introduce kids to coding. Our children are immersed in a world dominated by software and they need to understand the language of computers. We’ve all heard about the job prospects in computer science and that our children should become creators and not just consumers of technology.
But why is it important to introduce kids to coding?
As a teacher and a parent, I’ve witnessed firsthand what happens when the power of coding is unleashed in our children, and can tell you that these are the top 5 real reasons to get them into it.
When kids are coding, we are empowering them to…
1. Be Thinkers
When faced with a problem, we want kids to be able to think logically about how to solve it. It always helps to break problems down into smaller, more manageable sections – which is what coding is!
Coding gives meaning to ideas that we wouldn’t have necessarily seen before:
What happens when time is fast forwarded by 1000 years? What if we double the amount of goldfish in a tank? Children can program a computer to simulate models or thoughts that they wouldn’t normally get to see- here and now – which supports abstract thinking.
2. Notice Patterns
When we introduce kids to coding, they start to create patterns or apply mathematical concepts which they will actually see in action. In a programming environment, it’s like they’re working with two giant number lines where they can make their characters move left and right (adjusting the x-coordinate) or up and down (adjusting the y-coordinate). To keep score in games requires adding and subtracting integers. Often the math is hidden, but believe me, there is math in programming… a lot of it.
3. Be Expressive
By teaching our kids to code, we are also providing them with a new form of expression.
The only limit to programming is the child’s imagination.
Not only can they create programs for real-life, they can create programs for make-believe worlds. They can add colour, text, movement, sound effects and music to show us their feelings and present their stories and crazy ideas. They can add interaction and allow the user to make decisions.
When children are using a real programming language, they are truly creating something out of nothing.
4. Solve Their Own Problems
Problem solving is at the heart of computer science. When we introduce kids to coding, they get immediate feedback. By running their programs, they will know right away if they’ve made a mistake and will be determined to fix it. On a daily basis, I’ve witnessed groups of students huddled around computers, ignoring the bell to stay and fix problems in the program they’ve created. They are encouraging, challenging and supporting one another. It’s quite the celebration when they find the solution.
You may have heard that the word FAIL should be an acronym for First Attempt In Learning. Coding helps to change the mindset about failing- students are not intimidated by their mistakes, but inspired to correct them.
5. Become Creators
When we introduce kids to coding, they are always making plans, building on their ideas, and changing everything! Often, I notice they’ll create a program that they see should exist, but doesn’t. They can make anything from calculators to games with characters that will move faster when someone shouts. They can share their programs online to inspire others and to encourage remixing.
When we introduce kids to coding, we are supporting them to become “engineers” – creators, doers, masters of their own domain!
Whatever you decide to use to support your kids to learn to code, just look for programs that are fun, engaging and that spark their curiosity and creativity. Enjoy watching them discover the power of coding and maybe even consider joining in!