Coding is one of the newest subjects in children's education. It is also one of the most misunderstood. This is understandable as although coding is everywhere around us in our lives, it is very well hidden.
We get lots of questions from parents who want to understand what coding is and why it's so important.
Our Parents' Guide to Coding is there to answer many of those question. Here are some top tips on coding for parents.
What is Coding?
A common misconception is that coding is the same as IT. Being able to use a computer or tablet effectively is not the same as knowing how to code.
Coding is about learning how to communicate with a computer beyond just using software that perform certain tasks. In coding we are not using a software program, instead we are writing our own software.
But even this description does coding a disservice. Computer programming (as coding is more accurately called) is a mindset designed to solve problems in a logical and systematic manner. Yes, coding is a subject aimed at solving problems.
What's the Difference between Scratch, Python, Java, C++?
To communicate with a computer and ask it to do whatever we want it to do we need a language. And English will not do. Human language are just that: languages for humans. The intelligent human can understand human languages but computers are not "clever". We need a language that is specifically meant for communicating with computers.
Most children would have first seen "coding" via children's platforms such as Scratch. These platforms do introduce some concepts from coding, true, but they are very limited and basic. We often find that children are excited initially when they use Scratch, but get bored of it very quickly.
To properly learn coding we need to use a proper coding language. But not all languages are the same. Python is by far the preferred language for any beginner of any age to learn coding. There are two important reasons for this:
Python allows beginners to focus on the important concepts in coding and not on the small details of of the language. It is an easier language to get started with than many others. This also means that when we teach Python we never have to write code that we cannot explain right away to the students. This is very different from other languages like Java or C++, for example, where it is impossible to explain everything right away. This can make learning new things very frustrating.
Python is not a language for children or a teaching language. It is one of the most used languages in the world and it is a very powerful language.
Python is a very broad language. It has many applications across many fields, from Science to Web Development and many more. Any the applications Python is ideal for are growing continuously. Other languages have specialised uses and are not very useful outside of that narrow application.
In summary, Python is easy to learn, very powerful and very useful. There is no other language that scores highly on all of these.
What type of student is coding suited for?
Coding should be seen and treated in the same way that other academic subjects are, such as Maths and English and Science. Everyone learns these subjects. The same should be true for coding.
Some students prefer some subjects more than others, or are better at some subjects than others. The same is true for coding of course.
Although many often assume that the same kids who like maths will like coding, coding is also a very creative subject and if taught in a broad sense will appeal to a broader range of students than just those who like maths. Many artists are using coding in their work these days, as well as scientists!
How long does it take to learn coding?
We get asked this question a lot and in part this comes from the misconceptions around coding. Some people may think that learning coding is similar to learning how to use some software on a computer.
So let me ask a different question: How long does it take to learn Maths? Or how long does it take to learn Physics? It depends how far you wish to go. Some students stop learning Maths at GCSE, others at A'Level while others go on to study this at University and beyond. And the same is true for all subjects.
You cannot "complete" coding. A student will decide how far they wish to go, and at codetoday we can accompany them on their journey from beginners all the way to intermediate and advanced coding.
You can read more tips in our Parents' Guide to Coding where you will also find several links to blog posts from our archives that go a bit deeper into many of the topics discussed here.