Kids Coding: What’s the big deal?

What is coding? Is kids coding helpful? Why do I hear everywhere my child needs to know how to code? Should I enrol my child for coding classes?

You’re not alone if you feel you hear the words coding and STEM everywhere. Schools have started promoting themselves as STEM schools. Principals of schools talk about how they have introduced coding in their curriculum. Our kids casually drop into dinner time conversation “Mom, I learned to make a quiz app today.”

Coding (or computer programming) means to give a set of instructions to a computer to make something happen. Fifty years ago, people used to write computer programs on punch cards. Today’s popular programming languages have come a long way since then. We have programs that are readable to humans as well as computers. We have more powerful computers and petabytes and petabytes of data. We’ve entered a new digital age, where a robot takes our pizza order, we get live updates on its progress, and pretty soon, a drone delivers it at our doorstep.

This is all wonderful – but we have a problem. As we’ve all heard by now, future employment will look very different from today’s jobs. Not many of us know how to tell these computers, robots, and drones what to do. If we are not controlling the computers, we are merely consumers of services. If we do not prepare for the digital age and teach our children how to handle computers, they are at risk of being left behind.

This has led to a sharp rise in parental interest in teaching kids to code. The digital economy needs people who understand technology and how to use it to help humanity – whether to solve large problems like poverty and the environment, or to just deliver a hotter pizza, or to cut traffic congestion.

Getting kids to code opens up so many learning possibilities – they are learning problem-solving skills, translating a problem into computational terms, and seeing their world through a digital lens. The goal is not to correctly learn to write a particular programming language, which may go out of use in just a few years in this fast-moving tech world. It’s about getting comfortable with computers and technology at an early age and then use them as a tool to solve problems.

Kids learn to code by doing fun activities to create games, animations, and quizzes. Coding also teaches children concepts of mathematics, physics, and how to assimilate their thoughts. By learning to code the flappy bird game, their thinking shifts from “the flappy bird moves across the screen dodging pipes” to “if the bird’s x and y-coordinates are equal to those of the pipes, then a collision has occurred, and the background changes.”

This then connects them back to the logic of building a ride-hailing app like Careem, where they seek coordinates of a cab using GPS and plot the shortest route for the cab to arrive at your location.

A child who codes starts interpreting the world in a new way, and that’s a significant first step towards learning important skills for the digital age that is their future.

If you are looking to enrol your 6-14 year old into a kids coding program, you may want to check out www.skillza.co

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