Coding for children is still a relatively new subject and one that not all parents are comfortable with. With all other subjects that our children learn, parents understand what these subjects are even if they're not experts in each subject.
However many parents still put a big question mark next to coding, and there are also many misconceptions about the subject and how it's taught to children. We want to dispel these rumours and help you learn about kids' coding.
In this week's blog, we will explain everything there is to know about coding for kids, or almost, through an A-Z of kids' coding.
Let's get started…
A for Academic
Coding should be treated like other academic subjects and not as a gimmicky topic just to keep the kids entertained. Too often, coding is treated as a lightweight subject, both within schools and in out-of-school camps. This is wrong. Coding should be treated and taught in a rigorous and academic manner in the same way maths, science and English, say, are taught.
This does not mean coding can't be fun. On the contrary, coding becomes a lot more fun as you learn more, so learning coding properly is more fun and engaging than when using children-specific platforms that cannot get into the creative and exciting parts of the subject.
B for Bugs
There is a great story about the first 'bug' in a computer program from the times when computers where as big as rooms and a moth had made its way into the pipes making up the computer, causing it to fail. Although this story may or may not be true, it is almost certainly not where the name bug came from, but it's still a great story to tell!
A bug is when a computer program doesn't quite do what the programmer wants it to do. Sometimes it's obvious when there is a bug in the code, but at other times bugs are not that easy to spot and find.
Finding and fixing bugs is an important part of learning how to code. In fact, there is also a term for it: debugging.
C for Creativity and Critical Thinking
Many will not think of coding when they hear the word creativity. But coding is possibly one of the most creative subjects around. Coding is the ability to change an idea that someone has in their head into a program that a computer can execute. There are (almost) no limits on what those ideas can be.
In order to convert those human ideas into logical steps that the computer can understand and execute, a programmer needs to be able to think critically—programming is the ultimate problem-solving exercise. Not many other subjects combine creativity with critical thinking and problem-solving as effectively as coding does.
D for Data
We live in a world in which more and more data are being collected every second from every corner of our societies. When the amount of data available was very limited, as it was for most of our history up until relatively recently, it was possible to understand and analyse these date manually, or using simple methods.
But the only way to understand and make the most of the vasts amount of data available now is to analyze them computationally. And for this we need computer programs. This is why traditionally, fields like science and finance have been heavy users of coding.
We even have a new subject these days, data science, which looks at understanding and extracting useful information from data, and this subject relies heavily on both maths and coding.
E for Engaging
Coding is a subject that can engage many children and teenagers. I say it "can" engage many students because it all depends on how it is approached as a subject. Historically, only a certain type of child engaged with coding. These were times when coding was taught in a rather dry fashion, focusing just on teaching how to use the various tools and then letting the budding coders come up with exciting projects once they are proficient enough. But not many got that far.
The modern approach is to use engaging and exciting projects from the word go and this approach, although not easy to teach, makes coding more inclusive and we now see more and more children who would traditionally not been the coding type who now enjoy coding and flourish.
F for Future
As Niels Bohr once said, 'prediction is very difficult, especially about the future. Will coding be a must-have skill in the future in the same way that literacy and numeracy are today? Who knows. Although there is a good probability that this may be the case in one form or another.
What is clear is that already now, more and more jobs that did not required coding in the past do need it today. We mentioned science and finance earlier, but many other areas of business analytics, marketing, medicine, law, and the list goes on have members of the profession who are using coding to be more effective in their work. In the medium-term, there is no doubt that more and more professions will have coding as a desireable or required skill.
G for Games
We carry on with our A-Z of kids' coding with the letter G. When we ask kids what coding is used for on the first lesson of the first course, we often get this answer: games.
This is correct, of course, as every game you have ever played on a computer or a smart phone has been created through computer code. In fact, writing games is a great coding exercise.
However I must also put in a word of caution. Too often these days we see games that children can play that are labelled as a tool 'to learn to code'. In most, if not all, cases this is primarily an entertainment activity that has a small educational aspect to it. This is not too different from games that have an educational slant in Maths, say.