April 22, 2014 AT 9:00 am

This is Why Kids Need to Learn to Code #makereducation

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Doug Belshaw emphasizes some of the key reasons why coding is an important skill for kids to learn, from DMLcentral.

Why Is Coding Important?

Now that we’ve defined coding as the ability to read and write a machine language and think computationally, it’s worth turning to the ‘so what?’ question. Why do we need the general population to be able to do this? Why not leave it to a subset of very highly-specialised individuals and teams who can do this on our behalf? After all, we need roads and buildings but we don’t require kids to learn civil engineering and architecture.

Leaving to one side the top-down argument that it’s ‘good for the economy’, I’d argue that there’s at least three important reasons why kids should learn to code: They are: problem-solving, (digital) confidence, and understanding the world around them. I should re-emphasise that by ‘learning to code’ we’re talking about skills and competencies that people can be better or worse. The important thing here is the attitude and approach of the individual, not necessarily how polished their outputs are.

1. Problem-solving
Writing, debugging and remixing your own and other people’s code are fundamentally problem-solving activities. Whether it’s code that won’t run because of syntax errors, something working differently than you expected, or figuring out how to do something cool, these are all things that involve lateral thinking. And often this problem-solving involves working with other people – either in real-time or following tutorials, blog posts and howtos (and then sharing back).

2. (Digital) confidence
Literacy often leads to an increased sense of confidence. Not only confidence in terms of social interaction but also a sense of agency in shaping the environments in which people find themselves. In digital (or blended) environments, this means people not only being able to decode what they see, but encode it too: reading, writing and thinking computationally instead of merely elegantly consuming what others have produced.

3. Understanding the world
There’s a wonderful segment from a video interview with Steve Jobs in which he talks about the importance of realising that everything around you has “been made up by someone who was no smarter than you.” Realising that you can not only change and influence things, but build things that other people can use is, he says, “perhaps the most important thing.” In a world where almost everything has either a digital component or is somehow digitally mediated, being able to both read and write our environment is more important than ever.

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