Coding – It’s not a computer thing, not a techie thing, not a gadgets thing – it’s a language thing!
Coding essentially involves using languages to perform tasks, to communicate ideas and to express your motivations. More importantly, code is becoming the language which powers all other languages – our thoughts, feelings, emotions are all carried across the world via code. From the Arab Spring to the #MeToo movement – expressions of human empowerment made possible by communications technologies and systems which run on code.
Too many parents see the computer through which these activities are performed and equate that with a negative view of technology or bad “screen time” habits. Although children may be looking at a screen whilst coding, they are not a passive object during this time – they are problem solving, applying design thinking to tasks, testing and evaluating and learning from their mistakes in a healthy way.
When coding you are actively engaged in a creative process. You are innovating, building things for yourself, you are no longer just a passive consumer of technology but an active producer. Coding builds confidence and encourages a growth mindset – when you write code it is naturally accepted that it may have errors or as they like to be called “bugs”. A natural part of coding is learning to find and fix these bugs, and accepting this as part of the process. In other aspects of life we are encouraged to get it right and strive for perfection, to not make mistakes. When applied too literally, this kind of attitude can lead us to be too hard on ourselves when things go wrong leading to unnecessary stress and an unhealthy attitude towards learning.
Douglas Rushkoff sums up the importance of our ability to code code perfectly in this video –
Code is everywhere. It touches practically every aspect of our lives now to a greater or lesser extent. When you learn to code you learn how to construct new possibilities.
Here are some tips to help you get your child started with coding:
Try using Scratch – its a simple program designed to teach coding principles to children. Its an open and expressive tool and one of the best ways to start.
If your child has a homework assignment and wants to build a powerpoint presentation why not try making the same presentation using Scratch.
Some learners have a more hands on way of understanding – writing code on the screen can be a little too abstract and dry for them. Why not look at the BBC micro:bit – it’s a tiny computer which allows you to connect it up to physical things like buttons and other components such as lights and buzzers. Using the micro:bit you write code to interact with the physical world. This can really help some people to understand the way coding can connect with the real world around you.
Debunking the conventional coding myths: Your child does not need to be an expert at maths in order to code and it’s not just a “boy thing”. Imagination and creative thinking are far more powerful skills for coding than mathematical prowess. The world’s first computer coder was the daughter of one of the world’s greatest poets! A female and a creative thinker, at that, started this whole ball rolling.
One of the greatest responsibilities you have as a parent is to expose your child to as many opportunities, to try as many new things as possible. New experiences. New skills. They open our eyes to the world and they broaden our horizons, bringing new opportunities for our future selves. Building a successful career in which you are happy is about finding your passion. It may well be that your child’s passion is coding.
At the very least you owe your child the opportunity to try it for themselves.