What's the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word 'coding'
Responses to this question will vary widely. Coding is not a subject that's well understood by many. The main reason for this is that it's not been a subject taught in schools for very long. Many have never studied it. And even children who are in school today may only get a simplified version of 'coding' taught to them, and they too may have a skewed view of what coding really is.
Some of the most common answers to the question at the start of this post are:
Coding video games
These are all coding applications, but each one represents a very limited use of computer programming. Coding is not really about playing games like Minecraft or shifting blocks on a website for kids.
In the past decade, we have seen coding becoming more prominent in the education of our kids. In the early days, the focus was almost exclusively on introducing some of the basic concepts of coding using non-coding platforms explicitly designed for children. Emphasis was also placed on game-based websites and 'coding toys' such as robots.
In recent years, we have started to see coding grow up and shift away from these platforms and toys. Instead, we now see coding being delivered more professionally, using real coding languages such as Python and not children platforms. Coding is finally being treated like a proper academic subject.
Although the trend away from coding being seen as "something to do with video games" is positive, there is still a long way to go. Coding has a disadvantage compared to other subjects since it has not been around in children's education for a long time. As a result, it's still not very well understood by many parents. Schools also find coding a complex subject to teach as it requires a high level of coding knowledge to teach proper coding effectively.
Another misconception that hinders the perception of coding with the general public is the distinctions between learning coding and learning about technology. Technology relies on coding. But the two are not the same. We often have parents ask us whether the fact that their child is very good at using an iPad means that they'll be good at coding. The truth is that there's no relation between the two. Using technology is not the same as coding.
It's best to think of coding as learning a new way of communicating. When we write code, we are communicating with a computer, asking it to do whatever we want it to do for us. Coding is not just about learning a new language, though. It's the new way of thinking that we need to know to master computer programming. The coding language is only a tiny part of the process.
As computers become an increasingly important part of our societies and lives, learning how to communicate with them effectively is paramount.