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Forget Foreign Languages and Music. Teach Our Kids to Code

posted on September 27 2013

Take a regular school night, what is it like at your house, how many screens do you see? Do you ever watch TV without also having your laptop or iPad out? You at least check your phone every once in a while, right? Okay maybe not during Homeland. The point is our kids are growing up with a different understanding of technology.

I often wonder about the effect of Skype or Facetime on kids? My mum over Skype last night asked my three year old if she could have a bite of her dinner. She replied, "You're not here!". But that she can interact with her even when there are 6000 miles separating them is awesome. Does she think it's peculiar? Will she ever wonder about the technology that makes this happen? And should she?

That's why I love this article by Brendan Koerner in Wired Magazine.

"...the same neural mechanisms that make kids sponges for Mandarin likely also make them
highly receptive to computer languages. Kindergartners cannot become C++ ninjas,
but they can certainly start to develop the skills that will eventually cement lifelong
fluency in code. And encouraging that fluency should be a priority for American schools,
because it is code, not Mandarin, that will be the true lingua franca of the future."
Read the article here


It brings up really important questions as to what do future generations need to know about computers, smart phones, tablets-- strip back all the hardware and you've got the magic potion: programming. 

Shouldn't kids start learning about programming?

I mean can you imagine what their living rooms will look like when they have kids?

Here is a photo of a sorting game devised by computer scientist J. Paul Gibson to teach the concept of algorithms to children.

I think there is a lot to be said for developing familiarity with the general concepts of logic and algorithms that underpin all programming— like sequencing, conditionals, debugging.


"In a perfect world, kindergartners would receive instruction in both programming and foreign language as part of their day. But if a school has to choose, a strong case can be made for code. The most obvious argument, of course, is economic: Demand for software developers already far outstrips supply, and it’s expected to increase 30 percent by 2020 — more than double the average for all other jobs. (It’s difficult to imagine any scenario in which those opportunities will be outnumbered by jobs requiring fluent Mandarin.)

Yet teaching programming is not just about creating an army of code monkeys for Facebook and Google. Just as early bilingualism is thought to bring about cognitive benefits later in life, early exposure to coding shows signs of improving what educators call “computational thinking”—the ability to solve problems with abstract thinking. And even for students who never warm to programming, whose innate passions lead them toward English degrees rather than software engineering, understanding code still has great value.


As the media theorist Douglas Rushkoff has observed, to ignore programming is akin to relying on others to drive us around instead of learning to drive ourselves. The majority of our interactions in 50 years won’t be with monolingual humans from Asia; they’ll be with machines. So let’s teach our kids to tell them what to do, rather than the other way around."

Read the article here


 To code or not to?



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