Coding is a brand new subject for many kids. Real coding starts when they move beyond the children's platforms like Scratch and start to learn a coding language such as Python. The first steps of learning Python coding are critical as that's when the fundamentals are covered, and foundations for later learning are put in place.
In this post, I'll talk a bit more about why those early steps are so important and how after school coding courses can help take the learning of this subject beyond the basics kids learn at school.
Enjoying Coding in Python
I'll start with probably the most essential ingredient when learning Python coding: making sure that students enjoy coding. Students often come to real coding after having used children's platforms and other coding games and toys. These do not reflect what coding really is. Therefore, if not done correctly, the transition to coding in Python can leave children bored or disheartened.
However, a well-structured curriculum that focuses on teaching coding properly and using engaging projects will make kids realise that coding in Python is a lot more fun than using Scratch or playing with robots. Learning Python coding allows students to create anything they want with computer code and be creative, with no limitations. Making sure children appreciate how flexible and powerful coding is leads to children loving coding in Python. It empowers them.
Learning The Coding Mindset
Another critical step in the early stages of learning Python coding is getting used to the "coding mindset". What do I mean by this? Coding is a way of thinking, a type of problem-solving that is logical and follows clear steps. Knowing lots of commands and the right way of using them is important–I'll talk about this in the next section–but coding is a lot more than knowing lots of commands and methods.
What makes the difference between a coder and a good coder is the ability to think about a problem and find the neatest and most efficient way of solving it. Learning how to think like a computer while programming is an important skill to learn when learning Python coding.
This is not something you can learn overnight. It takes time to learn to think in a different way from the one you're used to. Children have a slight advantage over adults as they've spent less time in their lives thinking in the "human" way. Their way of thinking is often more basic than that of adults, making the switch to a programming mindset easier.
However, a good coding curriculum needs to nurture this side of coding. Teaching the commands is not enough. These thinking skills also go beyond coding. Learning how to break down a problem into small parts, solve it using logical steps and work on those steps one at a time is a skill that's useful elsewhere in life, too.
Learning How To Use The Fundamental Tools
Enjoying coding is important. Thinking computationally is also essential. However, a student who's started learning Python coding must also learn the basic commands and tools in coding to get started.
Python, like most coding languages, is vast and has millions of commands. In a first Python coding course, it's essential to start learning the fundamentals, but in which order? We've given this question a lot of thought over the years here at codetoday, and a lot of work has gone into our curriculum and projects, especially in those very early stages, such as a Level 1 course.
We want the projects to be fun and engaging right from the first session. This means we introduce some Python tools that allow children to draw graphics and create animations very early on. However, we're also introducing the fundamentals of coding that are needed for all types of computer programs. Moving on, we also choose to add some more intermediate topics relatively early on. We do this because it allows us, and the children, to work on exciting projects that allow students to be creative.
Learning To Solve Problems
Coding is a problem-solving exercise. Every computer program is a way of solving a problem. When learning Python programming, children need to learn the skills needed to solve problems early on. This is another aspect where the curriculum design and the style of teaching can make a huge difference.
Right from the first Level 1 courses, we want children to try and find solutions themselves and explore, experiment, and make mistakes. Too often, coding is taught in a copy-the-teacher's-code method. This is wrong and counter-productive. Children won't learn to solve problems by copying code.
When a student starts to learn Python coding in a Level 1 course, they'll learn:
to enjoy coding in Python
to think in the coding way
to use the fundamental tools in Python coding
to solve problems in a logical manner
All that's left now is to get you kids to start learning Python coding!