Somewhere in Malaysia: “Wow, Puan Mariam, your son created that computer game all by himself? He’s only five years old and he knows coding?” asks Puan Lim. “Yes, he learnt coding from his kindergarten!” Puan Mariam replies proudly.
The New Literacy
What exactly is coding? If you ask any of the kids involved in the CoderDojo movement, (an Irish founded charitable organization and movement) they’d very quickly answer without missing a beat: “It’s the stuff I type that makes my computer do cool things.”
If we think of code as a language, we can very well say that is it one of the most used languages in the world, maybe even more so than English and Mandarin. In a world where most jobs involve some sort of programming and dealing with software, code becomes the new, worldwide language. The new literacy.
Extensive research has shown that because young brains are so adept at picking up languages, it’s best to introduce children to foreign tongues as early as possible. What we did not realise is that those same neural mechanisms that make kids sponges for languages likely also make them highly receptive to computer languages.
Global Government Initiatives
Estonia is teaching first graders how to create their own computer games and offering scholarships to entice more undergraduates into technology-driven disciplines. In England, an updated national curriculum will soon expose more undergraduates into technology-driven disciplines. In England, an updated national curriculum will soon expose every child in the state school system to computer programming, starting at age five. The American “Hour of Code” effort says it has persuaded 28 million people to give programming a try.
Around the world, students from elementary school to the PhD level are increasingly getting acquainted with the basics of coding. From Singapore to Tallinn, governments, educators and advocates from the tech industry argue that is has become crucial to have at least a basic understanding of how the devices that play such a large role in modern life actually work.
Malaysia has its very own Coding@Schools programme. This is a government-funded initiative aimed at introducing primary school children to the world of computing and programming, to encourage them to become contributors to and creators of the Internet, rather than mere consumers. Via this programme, 3,000 students got to learn programming with LiveCode.
Benefits of Coding Skills
From the Tynker blog, here are 10 reasons kids should learn to code:
Coding Improves Academic Performance
|1||Mathematics||Coding helps kids visualize abstract concepts, lets them apply math to real-world situations and makes math fun and creative.|
|2||Writing||Kids who code, understand the value of concision and planning, which results in better writing skills. Many kids even use Tynker as a medium for storytelling.|
|3||Creativity||Kids learn through experimentation and strengthen their brains when they code, allowing them to embrace their creativity.|
|4||Confidence||Parents enthusiastically report that they’ve noticed their kids’ confidence building as they learn to problem-solve through coding.|
Coding Builds Soft Skills
|5||Focus and Organisation||As they write more complicated code, kids naturally develop better focus and organisation|
|6||Resilience||With coding comes debugging – and there’s no better way to build perseverance and resilience than working through challenges|
|7||Communication||Coding teaches logical communication, strengthening both verbal and written skills. Think about it: learning code means learning a new language.|
Coding Paves a Path to the Future
|8||Empowerment||Kids are empowered to make a difference when they code – we’ve seen Tynkerers use the platform to spread messages of tolerance and kindness.|
|9||Life Skills||Coding is a basic literacy in the digital age, and it’s important for kids to understand – and be able to innovate with – the technology around them.|
|10||Career Preparation||There is a high demand for workers in the tech industry; mastering coding at a young age allows kids to excel in any field they choose.|
Interested in getting your children started in coding? The kindergarten does not have coding in their curriculum or can’t find enrichment classes on coding? Try searching online. There are hundreds of online courses, programmes and apps that use cool graphics and simple tutorials dressed up as games to help kids learn to code.
Below are a few suggestions to get you started:
Cool apps / programmes
||The Foos||A commercial app to teach programming for ages 5 and above – no reading required.|
|2||Scratch Jr||An introductory programming language developed at MIT and Tufts. Designed for ages 5-7 to create interactive stories and games.|
|3||Tynker||For kids who can already read, this app is created for Android and iOS. It teaches programming logic with visual code blocks.|
|4||Lightbot||A programming puzzle game; it uses game mechanics that are firmly rooted in programming concepts. Lightbot lets players gain a practical understanding of basic concepts like instruction sequencing, procedures and loops, just by guiding a robot to light up tiles and solve levels.|
Think your kids are too young to learn to code? Think again. Some educators and experts are calling coding the “New Literacy” – a subject so important that every child needs to know the basics to excel in our rapidly changing world. Four and five-year-olds can learn the foundations of coding and computer commands before they can even write and spell words.