When I was writing about the people that aided my journey into programming, I was almost losing the focus of that article to talk about how every child should learn how to code. I overcame that temptation and decided to write about that differently. This is the fourth of #APieceOfMyMind
Coding (also called programming or developing) is telling a computer, app, phone or website what you want it to do. Some educators and experts are calling it the ‘new literacy’—a subject so important that every child needs to know the basics to excel in our rapidly changing world. Coding is a whole new language for children to speak fluently and express themselves in this age and time.
I am on the side of the argument that suggests that children should develop the right skills in this age of machine learning and computing. Just as we want them to express themselves clearly through writing, or contextualize the world through geography and develop numeracy through mathematics, we need to give them an opportunity to understand tools that will help them grasp the accelerating nature of technology.
Will every job involve coding/programming? No. But it is crucial we equip future generations to think about the world in a new way.
Why is it so vital that we teach our children to code? We are already living in a world dominated by software. Your telephone calls go over software-controlled networks; your television is delivered over the internet; people don’t buy maps anymore, they use the web; we all shop online. The next generation’s world will be even more online and digital. Soon, your house will be controlled with software, some of your medical care will be delivered over the web and your car will drive itself.
Think your kids are too young to learn to code? Think again. Anyone can learn to code. In a few hours you can pick up the basic skills and in a few weeks you will be able to build useful applications and websites. Four and five year olds can learn the foundations of coding and computer commands before they can even write and spell words. Older kids can learn to code through classes, mentors and online tutorials.
Learning to code prepares kids for the world we live in today. There are tons of jobs and occupations that use code directly, like web designers, software developers and robotics engineers, and even more where knowing how to code is a huge asset—jobs in manufacturing, nanotechnology or information sciences. However, for most kid-coding advocates, reasons for learning to code run much deeper than career prep.
Understanding Code Helps Understand The World
Kids are growing up in a very different world than that of their parents. Cellphones, computers, YouTube, Netflix, and Facebook are embedded in their daily lives. Even toys are digital, and many are programmable, such as Legos and the new-generation LeapFrogs.
If students are taught biology and mathematics in order to understand the world around them, then knowing the basics of how computers communicate—and how to engage with them—should be a given.
Learning To Code Develops Problem Solving And Computational Thinking Skills
The skills that come with computer programming help kids develop new ways of thinking and foster problem-solving techniques that can have big repercussions in other areas.
Computational thinking allows preschoolers to grasp concepts like algorithms, recursion and heuristics—even if they don’t understand the terms, they’ll learn the basic concepts.
Computational thinking is a skill that everyone should learn. Even if you never become a professional software engineer, you will benefit from knowing how to think this way. It will help you understand and master technology of all sorts and solve problems in almost any discipline.
Coding Is Fun!
Beyond the practical reasons for learning how to code, there’s the fact that creating a game or animation can be really fun for kids.
In November, 2014 when LearnCode was teaching about 10 students in Abuja how to code, the students were allowed to build simple computer games and at the end the participants couldn’t hide their happiness.
How can we be of help?
When, I thought of this article, I remembered Editi Effiong’s article on “Nigeria: The Technology Future, Education & The Lower 60%“. All he wrote there is still very much the case today and his experiment is still very vital in driving technology adaptation from the grass root. You may want to read the article here
A quote from that article goes thus
If rural children will have to take over the tech future, then they have to have access to real computers. If we want to bring technology into education, for me, it’s the simple nuts and bolts act of teaching basic computer usage at the most rudimentary level. This thinking is one I’ve had for the last eight years.
I completely agree with this because last summer when LearnCode partnered with Paradigm Initiative, RAD5 Technologies and Campus Impact Network to teach school students in Aba how to Code, we had issues with students who have not used the computer before. It was a huge challenge but we conquered.
However, above this level we can adopt programs and apps that uses cool graphics and simple tutorials dressed up as games to help kids learn to code.
A few suggestions to get you started: This I have tried and used
- SCRATCH: A program from MIT that lets kids creates games and animations without learning programming text—it’s a drag-and-drop way to learn computer concepts and have fun.
- Raspberry Pi: An inexpensive (about $50) credit-card sized computer that can be programmed just like a desktop PC. Can be used as a learning tool and a full-service computer by kids and adults alike!
- LEGO WeDo: The step between traditional building blocks and robotics, this Lego series allows kids to build models with programmable motors and sensor.
However, at LearnCode we want to help change things. We need to put coding at the heart of IT education. We want to put this power into the hands and hearts of every child in Nigeria.
We will help teach coding to every school child in the land. We will be teaching coding to anyone, of any age, who wants to learn. We are investing in Nigeria’s future. Will you join us?
There is an opportunity for the child close to you. #AfricaCodeWeek will be holding from October 1st to 10th and there may just be an event in your city. In Abuja, NigeriaReads and Enspire Incubation will be training children between age 6-18 on how to code from October 1st to 3rd.