We’re living in a digital age where mobile phones and tablets are a natural part of kids’ lives. Where even LEGOs have moved into the computer with Minecraft. In addition to reading, writing and arithmetic, today’s kids need to learn how to create digital programs, not just consume them.
t Coding (computer programming) is the art of creating anything from computer games and iPhone apps to computational models that help us improve health care. As our kids grow up, this ability to code will become as fundamental as reading and writing to their success, regardless of what occupation they ultimately choose.
1. Coding is a basic literacy issue, don’t let your kids get left behind
Computing is one of the fastest-growing occupations in the U.S. It’s also one of the top paying, with computing jobs paying 75 percent more than the median salary in the U.S. And, with over 1 million jobs in 2020 expected to rely significantly on computer science skills, how can we not think of coding as a necessary literacy?
t – Heather Carey, Executive Director of MassTLC Education Foundation and mother of two boys (ages 4 and 8) who have both already begun learning to code
2. Coders aren’t just geeks and gamer dudes
t Sharon’s daughters initially thought coding was just “something gamer dudes sitting around in dark rooms with TVs and headsets in pajama pants” did. But then her oldest, a biology major at Carnegie Mellon, changed her mind when she noticed the computational biologists were getting the coolest research projects. Her youngest, who hopes to become a foreign ambassador, took on coding when she realized it could be just as creative and essential a life skill as other things she enjoyed, like baking.
t – Sharon Wienbar, Technology Venture Capitalist and mother of two teenage daughters who code (ages 16 and 19)
3. Coding is creative and fun
t Jon’s 10-year-old son can spend hours fine tuning games written in Scratch, a programming language for kids. “My son really gets into it and it’s creative!”
t Scratch lets kids start with playing games, rather than writing code. Then, if they don’t like part of a game, say there’s a monster they can’t get past, they can go in and modify that game by changing its code. Make the monster shrink or run away. They can find and remix programs others have written to add their own twists. “It’s just as creative as art.” When Jon looks at the kids he’s teaching, he doesn’t think about the code, he thinks about all of the creativity going on in the room and how much fun the kids are having.
t – Dr. Jon Woodcock, author of Help Your Kids with Computer Coding and father of two coders (a 10-year-old boy and an 8-year-old daughter)
4. Coding builds self-confidence
t Lisa’s 9-year-old has struggled in the classroom but holds his own when programming with teenagers.
t Some kids struggle when pushed to meet externally imposed goals, but programming gives them the ability to control their own destiny. It lets them create in a world where there are no pre-defined paths, no “one right way” of doing things, and builds their self-confidence by showing that they can make their own paths, build their own solutions, in their own way.
t – Lisa Morales-Hellebo, Founder of New York Fashion Tech Lab, and mother of a 9-year-old who’s been coding since the age of 4.5
5. Coding teaches critical thinking and problem-solving skills
t Coding is like a game of chess, where you have to think a few steps ahead and think through the possible moves your opponent might make. It teaches kids to think about the big picture and how to break big tasks down. When kids learn to code, they learn to overcome difficult tasks and achieve overwhelming goals by teaching them, “how can I break this problem down so it’s manageable and gets me closer to where I need to be?”
t – Jillian Kando, Chief Technology Officer for EdTrips, and coder since the age of 16
6. Coding teaches storytelling
t Creating computer games gives kids the ability to tell stories through their games, and then to share those stories with others. “From my experience, the greater freedom in creating games we give to kids, the more they will impress us with their imagination.”
t – Marko Lohert, a software developer who teaches kids to code in Croatia
7. When you learn to code, you code to learn
t Coding is a new type of writing, one that allows you to write new types of things, from games to interactive stories to animations and simulations. And in the process of writing these new things, kids learn not just about computer science but they also learn strategies for solving problems, designing projects and communicating ideas. Skills that are useful to everyone. Not just geeks and gamer dudes.
t – Mitch Resnick, creator of Scratch, a programming language for kids
tPhoto credit: Westend61/Getty Images