Myths About Kids Learning Programming

I was recently invited to speak at a Ask The Expert session on ParentTown TV about why kids should learn programming.

The questions that came in through the ParentTown app showed that there’s still a fair bit of myths and misconceptions about programming for kids.

I answered a lot of these questions through the app and also during my live interview session on ParentTown TV. Thought I’ll share oneĀ of the more interesting/relevant ones in a blog post.

Why should kids learn programming?

One of the most asked questions is why kids should learn programming. I can think of three reasons. Learning to code helps kids pick up computational thinking skills like abstraction, automation, decomposition etc.

These computational thinking skills add different dimensions to their problem solving ability and make kids more pre-disposed towards traits such as confidence in dealing with complexity, persistence in dealing with difficult problems, tolerance to deal with ambiguity etc.

 

As the world becomes increasingly digital, the ability to read and write code is fast becoming a form of literacy. Just like kids learn English and/or whatever ethnic/national language in order to understand adults and communicate their thoughts and desires, reading and writing code gives kids the ability to communicate with and command machines.

This is an important skill that is relevant to the 21st century worker regardless of profession and job scope. Your child does not need to be a software engineer for his or her coding skills to be useful and relevant at work. Let’s take marketing as an example.

The 21st century marketing executive is a full-stack marketeer who can add snippets of code to track conversions (Javascript), analyse, collect and represent data (Python is a particularly useful tool for this), design and build simple campaign sites (HTML/CSS). Is she a software engineer? No. Does knowing programming help her do her job better and more efficiently? Absolutely.

 

As the saying goes, ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ and this applies to kids and programming. You may have a coding prodigy at home, someone who picks up programming and just has a natural aptitude for it (at Saturday Kids we have minted a few of these), but if your child is never exposed to programming how will he/she ever discover the lifelong passion for coding and computer science?

When should my child start?

Another common question is at what age a child can start learning programming. My son Camper started coding when he was five by playing a coding puzzle app called Lightbot Jr. He loved it.

Scratch Jr is another option for kids around the ages of 5-7. Some parents understandably want to limit screen time. There are a couple of options that teach kids programming without using screens at all.

Beebot is an easy-to-operate robot that kids can command by pressing the up, down, left, right buttons on the Bee. Great way to introduce kids to the concept of commanding a machine.

Kibo lets kids create a sequence of instructions (a program) using the wooden KIBO blocks which tells the robot what to do.

 

Other Questions

There are many more questions about programming for kids that I cannot answer in a single blog post. Head over to ParentTown TV to view the full list of questions and watch the video interview.

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