Kids these days. Us grown folks like to shake our heads at them. Talk about “back in our day,” when we didn’t even know how to turn on a computer. But these kids, puh. They don’t know nothin’ about our struggle. They are playing on iPads and iPhones before they can complete grammatically correct English sentences. Their whole lives are computers! Turns out this isn’t that far from the truth. Kids these days were born at the height of our technological development, and it will only go up from here. But giving kids an iPad and iPhone doesn’t make them tech savvy any more than driving a car makes the driver a mechanic. Kids should learn to code for many reasons, including the fact that they are tomorrow’s problem solvers.
Several movements have recently highlighted why kids should learn to code. In one popular video from code.org, the likes of will.i.am, NBA star Chris Bosh, and Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg all talk about the importance of learning to code. Some started learning to code to make their games more fun for themselves, or to learn one simple thing. And while there are folks who don’t think that kids should learn to code (because the importance of learning to code is overrated,” say the naysayers), these folks are wrong. While anyone can learn to code, kids would have an advantage learning because of how easily their minds soak up new things. This is why kids can pick up on new languages and instruments as young as 3 years old.
Back in the day, kids learned to code using programs like LOGO, a program in which kids can learn abstract thinking by moving a turtle in a particular pattern around a screen. Today, there are significantly more resources available for kids who want to learn to code. For example, Scratch, Robot Turtles, and Kodable all introduce kids to concepts and principles of coding. However, while the public has decided that coding is important to kids, the school system has not caught up yet. Stats show that 56% of high school seniors are not offered the opportunity to take a Computer Science course. Further, of the United States’ 50 states, only 20 require a Computer Science credit to count towards fulfilling a math (or science) graduation credit. So while kids should learn to code, many aren’t exposed to opportunities to do so.
We’ve written before about the benefits of a STEAM education, but we’ve never talked about why learning to code is especially good for kids. Below we’ve listed some reasons kids should learn to code:
Kids should learn to code because it exposes them to computational thinking early
A phrase coined by Jeannette Wing, VP of Research at Microsoft, “computational thinking” is the ability to solve problems with abstract thinking. This is not limited to coding, but is also part of cooking, knitting, assembling furniture from Ikea, and perfecting your slam dunk. Via computational thinking, the world becomes a series of puzzles that can be solved using logical and deductive reasoning. Helping kids to think this way will make computational thinking part of their procedural memory rather than their declarative memory. That is, at an early age, kids have procedural memories which allows them to pick up on things quickly, and whatever they learn becomes an instinctive part of them. On the other hand, declarative memories are those that aren’t as ingrained and take work to access and practice to master. Kids should learn to code because “Children from 5-11 have so much potential for learning about algorithms and computation that it would be a shame to wait until they are teenagers before we try to teach them foundations,” says J. Paul Gibson, a computer scientist at the National University of Ireland.
Coding is Empowering for Kids
Self-expression is particularly important for kids, and coding gives them the super powers. Kids should learn to code because coding gives them more outlets to express themselves and the opportunity to be more creative. Especially for children who don’t feel heard or supported. For example, girls aren’t often encouraged to learn to code, and the lack of visibility of women in the field is even more discouraging. While 74% of girls in the US express an interest in coding in middle school, but only 4% indicate that they are going to major in it in college. But learning to code helps them make the world their own. Kids should learn to code because it gives them to tools to build themselves up, to make their world more colorful, the make their brains sharper. Learning to code will help kids realize the limitless possibilities of their minds.
Programming is basic literacy in this world
We use technology to communicate, to do our banking, to tell us how to get somewhere. Without technology, we’d be lost. (Literally. Lots of people couldn’t find their way across town without Google Maps.) Adults of this world can remember a life with dumb phones and MapQuest. Kids today cannot. They were born into the height of technology. Robots may actually take over the world one day because computers are capable of incredible feats; however, there needs to be people who can program them, because they can only do what they are told. Kids should learn to code because they are gonna have to deal with the robot take-over. They might be the ones to come up with the world-changing/world-saving ideas. It’s best we prepare them from now.
If you’re sold and think the juice is worth the squeeze, check out our Youth Combine STEAM Academy, starting June 12!