Why We Need to Teach Kids to Code
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Obviously, don’t even get me started on the ridiculous skills gap we’ve got in technology and the fact that, in most schools, kids still aren’t being offered any options for learning programming. I can’t even understand it. So, when SheKnows asked me to write a couple of pieces on teaching kids to code, I jumped at the chance…
We’re living in a digital age where mobile phones and tablets are a natural part of kids’ lives. Where even LEGOs have moved into the computer with Minecraft. In addition to reading, writing and arithmetic, today’s kids need to learn how to create digital programs, not just consume them.
Coding (computer programming) is the art of creating anything from computer games and iPhone apps to computational models that help us improve health care. As our kids grow up, this ability to code will become as fundamental as reading and writing to their success, regardless of what occupation they ultimately choose.
1. Coding is a basic literacy issue, don’t let your kids get left behind
Computing is one of the fastest-growing occupations in the U.S. It’s also one of the top paying, with computing jobs paying 75 percent more than the median salary in the U.S. And, with over 1 million jobs in 2020 expected to rely significantly on computer science skills, how can we not think of coding as a necessary literacy?
- Heather Carey, Executive Director of MassTLC Education Foundation and mother of two boys (ages 4 and 8) who have both already begun learning to code
2. Coders aren’t just geeks and gamer dudes
Sharon’s daughters initially thought coding was just “something gamer dudes sitting around in dark rooms with TVs and headsets in pajama pants” did. But then her oldest, a biology major at Carnegie Mellon, changed her mind when she noticed the computational biologists were getting the coolest research projects. Her youngest, who hopes to become a foreign ambassador, took on coding when she realized it could be just as creative and essential a life skill as other things she enjoyed, like baking.
- Sharon Wienbar, Technology Venture Capitalist and mother of two teenage daughters who code (ages 16 and 19)
3. Coding is creative and fun
Jon’s 10-year-old son can spend hours fine tuning games written in Scratch, a programming language for kids. “My son really gets into it and it’s creative!”
Scratch lets kids start with playing games, rather than writing code. Then, if they don’t like part of a game, say there’s a monster they can’t get past, they can go in and modify that game by changing its code. Make the monster shrink or run away. They can find and remix programs others have written to add their own twists. “It’s just as creative as art.” When Jon looks at the kids he’s teaching, he doesn’t think about the code, he thinks about all of the creativity going on in the room and how much fun the kids are having.
- Dr. Jon Woodstock, author of Help Your Kids with Computer Coding and father of two coders (a 10-year-old boy and an 8-year-old daughter)
4. Coding builds self-confidence
Lisa’s 9-year-old has struggled in the classroom but holds his own when programming with teenagers.
Some kids struggle when pushed to meet externally imposed goals, but programming gives them the ability to control their own destiny. It lets them create in a world where there are no pre-defined paths, no “one right way” of doing things, and builds their self-confidence by showing that they can make their own paths, build their own solutions, in their own way.
- Lisa Morales-Hellebo, Founder of New York Fashion Tech Lab, and mother of a 9-year-old who’s been coding since the age of 4.5