5 Reasons Your Kids Should Learn to Code
Courtesy of MV Code Club
Coding (or programming) is the way in which people teach computers and digital devices what to do. With the explosion of mobile devices into our lives, coding has taken on a new and important role. Learning to code isn’t just a fad, and there’s a nationwide push to introduce coding into curriculums across the country with organizations like code.org and local organizations like MV Code Club. There are a lot of reasons to learn to code, here are a few...
1. There are now more computing devices than people
In 2012, the number of internet connected devices surpassed the number of people in the world. Cisco estimates that the number of devices connected to the internet will grow from 10 billion in 2014 to 50 billion in 2020. There are only 7 billion people in the world. Your children will grow up in a world in which they are outnumbered by computers! By learning to code, they will be able to master technology, instead of being controlled by it.
2. Coding teaches problem solving
I was working with a 5th grade student who was completely stuck on a coding problem at MV Code Club. His program simply didn’t work. His head was in his hands and he seemed upset. I sat down next to him, and offered some words of support - “Coding can be frustrating”. He corrected me and said “No, not frustrating, just challenging!”
Computers are famously unforgiving. But kids are amazingly resilient! When something goes wrong with your computer, yelling at it or throwing things at it doesn’t work. When kids hit a “bug” in their code, or a problem that they can’t solve, they are forced to use logic and reason to figure it out. They start to understand that if they apply themselves to a problem over a long period of time, they can do amazing things. Programmers (and engineers of all kinds) use several logical techniques to solve problems, including deductive reasoning and computational thinking. These techniques are universal and don’t change, even though technology that we use changes all the time. It’s important for kids to learn those skills now.
3. Modeling real world phenomena creates a better understanding of math and science
I’ve worked with kids as young as 5 and 6, teaching them the basics of how to model physics and using negative numbers and cartesian coordinates. A big area of coding is in simulations. When kids are making a game or an app, they often want it to have “lifelike” properties. For example, if they want to make their character jump, they don’t want him to float in the air, or just immediately come up and down.
So, they’ll make their game, and they’ll ask how they do that. For example, how to make jumping more life like. They need to understand a few concepts. Gravity, and how that works. Velocity and acceleration, to model gravity. Positive and negative numbers, to model velocity and acceleration. Cartesian coordinates, to map it back to their characters on the screen. Jumping is just one example of a physical simulation that kids are motivated to model in their game. Others are electricity, music, shapes, sounds. The list goes on.
4. Creating video games is a good alternative to just playing them
Many parents are concerned about video games, and their impact on their children. There is a an affinity between kids who like to code, and kids who play video games. Playing video games, while better than simply watching TV, is still a fairly passive activity. However, when kids who code play video games, they see things differently. Video games become an inspiration to create, rather than just a way to pass time. They can often see the similarities between code that they’ve written, and the advanced game that they are playing. One of the most common things kids want to do when learning to code, is copy a game that they love. Trying to copy a game by writing your own version is very similar to painting a copy of a picture made by a master, just to learn their techniques. Learning to code changes children’s perception of video games from purely an act of consumption, to one of inspiration and creativity.
5. Coding offers a new creative and artistic outlet
You may have heard of STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. But have you heard of STEAM? STEAM adds Art and Design to the equation, and brings an entirely different mix of kids to to coding. There are incredible tools out there for kids to learn to create dramatic works, graphical art, music, and design. Think about tools like Photoshop (for graphic design), Garage Band (for music), Makerbot and CAD programs (for creating physical things), and Scratch (for creating games and stories. There has been an explosion of tools and platforms for kids to express their creativity.
There is a Chinese proverb that says “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now”. Games, apps and digital platforms are a new way for people to communicate. Kids who can master them can control their own world. They don’t have to be defined by the latest social network, media network or game platform. They can have their own point of view and share it. The sooner they start, the more prepared they will be for a future filled with technology.
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Doug Tarr is Founder/CEO of MV Code Club