It seems like the Silicon Valley bug is rampant – from the West coast to the East, and from adults all the way down to children as young as three, everyone is coding. Coding, or Computer Programming, curricula are being introduced to children as young as three years old around the world.
Games like Robot turtles (pictured below) can be a great way to introduce kids who love playing games to coding.
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While games are great for young kids, computer science courses have long been a part of extracurricular programs in most schools, primarily in the form of a Robotics club. But, what was once considered an elective is now making its way alongside core curriculum pillars, literacy and numeracy.
According to Forbes, England is the first country in the world to make computer programming a mandatory subject from the moment they start school at age 5. While in the United States, Code.org reports that 1 in 10 US schools teaches programming. While the stats may seem shocking, educators have long been advocating for coding to be integrated into the curriculum. Their rationale is simple. Coding is no longer considered specialized knowledge. We live in a world that is so heavily immersed in technology. Naturally, a basic understanding of the code running the apps on our ubiquitous smartphones and tablets is the next step. And, because of this, coding has transformed from specialized content knowledge to a transferable skill that will be valued by tomorrow’s employers.
High school level elective Computer Science courses have been available for decades. So, why the sudden push to have children coding at the elementary level? There are several reasons.
There are a lot of unfortunate stereotypes associated with programmers. They have been depicted by the media as nerdy white boys who lack social skills. These stereotypes have made an impact on young impressionable minds: only 18.6 percent of students in high school programming courses were girls. When we introduce programming at a young age, children are unaware of such stereotypes. Gender and race play no role in children’s level of interest, excitement, and involvement. They embrace the new subject with the same level enthusiasm and curiosity.
In this day and age, it seems like children learn to swipe on Mommy’s iPad before they learn to roll over. They are engaged in technology like no previous generation. Instead of discouraging it, coding is a great way to foster your child’s interest in technology. Most parents are ecstatic to have their kids use their ‘screen time’ to build apps or games instead of passively play them. This marks a remarkable and empowering shift from being a user of technology to a producer.
One of my favourite extracurricular activities to lead was the school’s Robotics club. My students were often overcome with a sense of accomplishment and excitement as they worked hard to overcome programming challenges to reach their goals. In the process, students were required to logically think through the problem, devise a creative plan, implement the plan, and then go back and evaluate and tweak the code as necessary. This procedure of defining, analyzing, implementing, and evaluating is the same problem solving methodology that is used across various subject areas and fields.
4. Math and Science Applications
South Asian parents are known to value strong academics, particularly in math and science subject areas. As a matter of fact, Elliot Bay, Director at Real Programming 4 Kids, has noted the prevalence of South Asians at the organization’s eight Coding Camps across the GTA. He says, “Kids are getting an opportunity to apply their math and science knowledge, and they don’t even realize they are practicing foundational curriculum concepts because they are too busy having fun programming a game. This is a great way for parents to cultivate their children’s interests.”
As a culture that valued rote learning for decades, South Asians are now beginning to understand the importance of teaching children problem solving and math and science applications – a skill prominent in Engineering, Technology, and countless other fields. Computer programming allows children to apply concepts of physics and mathematics while learning a programming language and creating games.
What can you do to embrace this revolutionary change in Education? There are plenty of resources available for parents looking to get their children involved in Computer Science at an early age. There are a plethora of board games for preschoolers (i.e. Robot Turtles pictured above). Summer camps and weekly classes are available in major cities across the continent that are designed primarily for school-aged children. For parents interested in introducing programming to their children at home, Code.org offers a 20-hour course designed to introduce core programming concepts to K-8 children. It includes interactive lessons and guided activities.
This is an exciting time in the field of Education. While Educational paradigms seem to come and go like seasons, this isn’t one of them. Technology is here to stay, and coding in the curriculum is the next logical step. Let’s prepare our children for tomorrow’s world and embrace this change.
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