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When I started writing this article I wanted to talk about how important it is for every single student to learn how to code.
My third grader was sharing his experience of using scratch at his school. So I asked him. ‘What do you think about coding?’ And that’s what he said.
If you can code you can change the world.
So I went with it. I do not know how much you can change the world with coding but it certainly is a necessary skill in this changing world.
I found three ways to explain why there is a big need for including coding in the school curriculum.
It is not just for the engineer
Let’s first talk about the misconception that coding is meant only for engineers or students who will go on to pursue a career in software development. It is absolutely not.
Coding is nothing more than telling a computer what to do in a language that the computer understands. You see, coding is the language of the future. Look around us today, we are constantly interacting with computers in one way or the other. Given that our world around us is becoming more and more digital, learning to code is equivalent to learning how to read and write.
Think how a child learns language. She first listens to her parents and people around her and learns how to speak. But that isn’t enough, she has to go on and learn to read, identify words when she sees them so she can make sense of the world around her. Then she has to express her ideas and thoughts, so she has to learn how to write.
Coding expands the understanding of the world around you. The skills you develop while learning to code are actionable and universal all through out your life. Encouraging your children to learn these skills is equivalent to providing them with tools to not just interact but thrive in this world.
It will teach you how to think
‘Everybody in this country should learn to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.’ ~ Steve Jobs
Coding is not about lines of commands on a screen, it is rather about going from point A to point Z in 24 different ways. It is figuring out the minute well-thought-out steps to achieve a goal. Coding forces you to start thinking in logical steps and how variations in those steps can lead to a different action.
The essence of coding is in computational thinking, breaking down large complex problems into small digestible chunks and forming repeatable solutions.
Learning computer programming also improves your attention to detail. Given that a missing hyphen or a semicolon can lead to different results, you become quite skilled at paying attention to details.
It can ignite imagination
Have you ever solved a puzzle? Do you remember the excitement of accomplishment at the end of it? What if you told your child she can create her own maze and play with it? Learning how to code will open that door to a world of imagination for her.
Coding is about joining the dots to make the picture whole. Imagine you can make a character of your choice and make it jump up and down. Imagine dragging code blocks that allows you to make catchy music beats and mix them up.
Coding provides creative ways to build your own worlds and see them come to life. The sheer joy of making things and being able to add movement to complex interlocking parts on screen can be very entertaining. In the words of a tynker maker, who is also a 7th grader ‘Coding is fun because once you have finished it, it’s really fun to play with it.’
I can go on and on of all the things that coding enables you to do but for now I want to leave you with the Hour of Code activities. These are categorized by age and they not only teach basic coding skills but are fun and interactive.
So go on, have some fun.
Let technology be the wind in your sails.
Let the knowledge to code fuel your flights of fantasy.
Priyanka is the Founder and CEO of PopSmartKids, a company created to foster social-emotional learning in children by effective use of technology. A graduate from Purdue University she left her career as a tech exec in 2018 to start a movement of redefining screentime from a monitored time to a powerful tool for mentoring our future generation. She is a mom to two clever boys and a big advocate of digital citizenship for children.
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