Do you want to know how to save the world? The answer is simple. Teach children coding languages. Computer programming is at the front of every human and environmental issue that the world faces. Technology has the power to bring drinking water to Africa, connect people on a level that wasn’t possible five years ago, help solve dementia and aging… the list is never-ending.
Today, the United States doesn’t even crack the top ten for counties with the best programming skills. Why is that? It probably has something to do with our education system. Today, there are 15 countries in Europe who have made coding apart of their school curriculum and they start as young as primary (elementary) school. Really think about this…kids have the best imaginations, they are the dreamers, and to them anything is possible. If you take a child who has a dream and decides to teach them software development, then maybe the problems of the world will start to shrink. Opportunity becomes available to all.
Think of any issue in the world, and then think about how technology might begin to change that. Let’s really move past the idea that coding or programming is all about dating apps or social justification over people from high school. My daughter, who is four, doesn’t see the world as a rank system. She sees a problem and wants to find a creative solution. If she doesn’t understand something, then she asks why. She is at the cusp of noticing that the world isn’t the pretty picture that daddy and I created for her, and as a parent that is scary. What I want for her is to grow up and be successful and to also live in a world that she pictures now. To be honest, the best way to solve social, political, environmental and biological issues is to start introducing her and her peers to coding languages.
So, what are coding languages? The simple answer is, it’s a language the people and computers share to build a program or execute a specific task. Our whole lives are running by the theory that sits under the computer science umbrella. There are several different languages that are used to program. I’ve compiled a list of coding languages that other countries are using to teach their children. Hopefully, the United States will implement programming into their education curriculum.
Scratch was developed by MIT Media Lab for children who are aged 8 and up. This program is fun to use because kids aren’t having to write code. Instead, they are able to choose blocks (scripts) that allow “sprites’ to react.
Python is a good step up once your child has mastered scratch. The language uses the simple syntax (you tell the computer what you want it to do), so they can easily program without any a headache.
Python.org has several beginners’ guides and resources to help the user get started. I personally really like Python because it is so simple, and a lot of developers are moving their projects to Python because the language is easy to write.
Visit https://www.python.org/downloads/ to download the latest version on Python and visit https://www.jetbrains.com/pycharm/ (you need an environment to write your code in…you could use notepad, but this helps you run and execute the code) to download a text editor to write your script in.
Blocky isn’t just limited to just the web. It also runs on iOS and Android.
This is still in development but, Google and MIT Media Lab joined together to create a program that uses the Blockly structure but builds on it so that the program fits a younger age demographic than Blockly did. Scratch blocks also add in the element of adding horizontal blocks with vertical blocks and that kids can control icons and texts.
Alice is very similar to Java but allows users to have a visual learning experience. The user begins by setting the stage and then moves into creating the scene (Think the Sims, but you’re filming a movie). The user can add characters, objects and then control and customize them. To control the scene, the user clicks and drags the objects (they appear as blocks) in the procedure window and customizes them to create their scene.
This program’s audience would probably fit middle schoolers’ through college students’ skillsets the best. Companies who have partnered behind Alice include Carnegie Mellon University, Oracle, Java, EA, and the National Science Foundation…As someone who grew up playing the Sims, I love Alice! Plus It’s FREE, which is really the best price.
Kodu takes all the fun things about Alice and shrinks it down to an elementary school level. In the program, the user can “create a game.” You start with a small plot of land and you can expand on it, add water, change the terrain, etc. Once the setting for gameplay is complete, the user can set their Kodu (which is a cute little robot) and control it by creating a programming algorithm. The player can control all aspects of the Kodu such as hit points, speed, and create keyboard commands. There are also other elements to the game that the player can program such as cannons, rovers, subs, and different bots.
Your child will start in the Roblox studio and will be given a baseplate, so they can create their own game. The program reminds me of how a Microsoft program works. You have a ribbon at the top of your screen that allows the user to add models, create terrain, move and customize objects, etc. I think this program would be a good upgrade to Kodu (you are creating a game) once your child wants to learn how to write a script.
The platform has over 15 million games that have already been created by users and is a top gaming site for kids and teens. Because this is a multi-player online game, parents should monitor their child’s activity. The administrators do a fair job of monitoring the site, but there have been instances of inappropriate behavior reported. Because of this, parents are given a log-in, so they can see what their child is doing.
This company is probably my favorite out of all methods. Kano is a kit that allows kids to create their own computer. Every part of the machine, kids can put together. Once the computer is on, kids can play and build games, make artwork and play music. The company really wants to turn to code into a creative outlet that allows kids to better understand the world. What’s really cool about this product, is that kids are not just learning how to code, but they are learning how a computer actually works.
This is a monthly subscription method where your child learns to design their own game by using actual coding languages. Children go through the online courses and they are able to put what they learned into practice. If the child gets stuck on a lesson, there is a mentor there who is willing to help guide them through a solution. This is probably the most hands-on way a child can learn different coding languages. Children are becoming proficient in coding by using their imagination and bringing it to life on the screen.
CodaKid also has an impressive resume attached to their teaching program. They won the 2017 Parents Choice award! However, users do have to pay for the subscription…but if the mentors are as good as the site says they are, It’s probably worth it in the long run.
Tynker is a less expensive option than CodaKid. A lifetime subscription is $180 instead of paying $25 a month for CodaKid. There are other methods of payments that are available too.
This is an app for kids aged 5-9, but it’s not based on the idea of courses, rather games that teach the basics of coding. Kids can play games based off sequences, functions, debugging, loops, and other coding basics. The app helps children learn how to problem solve while having fun.
A yearly subscription to Kidlocoding costs $29.99 but the app is free to teachers and can be purchased in bulk quantities for 50% off.
There are always other resources to help teach children how to code. Being a mom, I learned that methods that helped my daughter learn didn’t necessarily work for my daughter. Maybe your child loves books? Amazon has a great list of programming books for kids that range from being trapped in a video game, to teaching a baby how to code with trains.
However, your child learns, learning code is always one step closer to making the work a better place. Once you tie that idea to teaching children how to program, we are that much closer to solving global issues through technology once that child becomes an adult.