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    How Important Is It For Your Child To Learn To Code?

    By Rishi Gupta
    23 Mar'22  10 min read
    How Important Is It For Your Child To Learn To Code?
    Synopsis

    Coding ain't just reserved for tech enthusiasts and experts anymore; nowadays, it is something that kids are increasingly beginning to learn. With the rapidly changing world, coding has become an important skill to have, which is one of the reasons why parents are enrolling their children in coding classes. But should parents push their children to learn through coding programs for kids, and what should the expectations be when they put their children to learn how to code? Here are a few basic things you should know about if you want your child to learn to code.

    How Important Is It For Your Child To Learn To Code?
    Synopsis

    Coding ain't just reserved for tech enthusiasts and experts anymore; nowadays, it is something that kids are increasingly beginning to learn. With the rapidly changing world, coding has become an important skill to have, which is one of the reasons why parents are enrolling their children in coding classes. But should parents push their children to learn through coding programs for kids, and what should the expectations be when they put their children to learn how to code? Here are a few basic things you should know about if you want your child to learn to code.

    We all are likely to agree that the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a digital transformation in the world. With schools and offices moving to homes, the virtual world has begun to overlap with the real. The world is changing faster than we realise, with technologies like robotics, virtual and augmented reality, and artificial intelligence gaining rapid prominence.

    Soon, all these concepts will be an absolutely inseparable part of our lives, especially those of the young generation. With such in-depth penetration of technology in our lives, it is inevitable for kids to get fascinated by the digital realm. However, concepts of programming are not new to the society. According to statistics shared in a report by www.code.org, 45% of high schools now teach computer science, which is 20% more than the 25% in 2014.

    Coding is soon going to be the universal language of the world. Starting from the mobile email application to a vacuum cleaner that knows by itself when and where to clean, all smart devices need computer codes to operate and communicate. Today, there are 23 million coders in the world and the number is expected to grow by 5 million within five years’ time. There is an accelerating trend of employers preferring a digitally aware workforce. With digital trends taking over all the industries and future job prospects, we should not be surprised if parents incline towards getting their kids to learn coding from a very young age.

    Being Practical: Know How Coding Helps

    Technology is everywhere, and it would most definitely be a good idea to embrace it, though with some caution. Let us discuss a few pointers as to why knowing how to code is essential in modern times.

    • A lot of us who don't understand the technology or codes behind smart devices, social media networks, connected intelligence, and video games, are in a more vulnerable position to fall prey to modern-day issues like cyberbullying and cyber threats. Basic programming knowledge can undoubtedly help children behave more responsibly in the virtual world, and also protect themselves from cyber threats. It won’t be wrong to say that knowing basic coding is now like a defence mechanism against cyber threats. Early and guided exposure to technological concepts can prepare kids for the future to ensure that they remain productive, efficient, and safe.

    • Exposing kids to basic coding shall help them explore an aspect of their aptitudes and interests. Those who find themselves naturally inclined and interested in coding may further work on developing these skills, and, who knows, they may go on to make significant contributions to the tech industry.

    • Learning and practicing coding helps children become better and faster problem solvers and logical thinkers. Remember how our generation, as kids, used to look forward to solving sudoku in the newspaper or rearranging the Rubik’s cube? Writing a set of codes to create a digital sudoku or Rubik’s cube would be equally, if not more challenging for the brain.

    Coding skills will never be the only prerequisite for success, but like other languages like French, Spanish, and English we can soon expect programming languages to be made a regular subject in schools, and a valuable addition to the résumés of the future.

    Exercising Caution: Don’t Chase The Illusion

    Stressing on the necessity of coding skills does not mean that we take away the childhood out of our kids, and normalise watching them sit hooked to a computer screen, learning to code.

    Reckless advertising has created an illusion for many parents who believe that their kids’ knowing coding from a young age is their only path to success. The visible shift in career goals of children, from aiming to graduate from prestigious law, medical, or engineering schools, to wanting ‘School/College Dropout, Startup CEO’ on their resume, is in a way, worrying.

    While it is essential and helpful to look up to contemporary billionaires and take inspiration from them, at the same time we need to teach our kids where they must draw the line. Wanting to be successful is ‘cool’, but aiming to ‘copy and paste’ the journeys of a few popular examples into our own lives might just be a mirage. What the kids need to be explained is that Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Marissa Mayer didn’t become successful because of their technical superiority, but for their innovative and progressive thought processes, and most importantly, outstanding interpersonal skills. Over-immersion in technology cannot foster these human attributes, and hence, the importance of engaging in the real world, that is, the world outside the screen remains as much.

    child coding, coding programs for kids, programming for kids, teaching kids codingThe Virtual World Cannot Substitute For The Real

    There Is No Perfect Recipe

    We, as parents, need to carefully evaluate the natural abilities and interests of our children before deciding to get them to learn coding, in order to ensure that we provide constructive direction to our kids. Coding is just not writing a program, but involves a deeper level of creativity, to visualise how the code creates specific functions on the screen. Every child is unique and so is a program, and coding will have a different impact on every child who is introduced and trained on it. Computer coding involves writing a set of instructions in a particular programming language, governed by certain rules, to generate desired results. This requires the coders, which is here, the children, to think out of the box to use these instructions and rules, and fix the complex errors, just like solving a jigsaw puzzle or sudoku.

    At this point, most parents are likely to have questions about what is the right approach to follow when getting their child to learn coding? While there is no perfect recipe to it, defining the purpose might just help you and your child get a direction.

    Define The Purpose Of Teaching Kids Coding

    Purpose drives motivation and motivation drives results, so, it is important that we must first define the purpose of why we want our children to learn coding. Is it the skill, creativity, problem-solving, communication, or something else? While defining a purpose, we as parents must understand that all children are already blessed with a certain set of skills, and coding should support these and add value to them. Coding should not be seen as something that is superior to these skills or something that could replace them.

    Let us say, for instance, your child is a talented sportsperson and can clearly have a future in sports. In this case, the right purpose of getting the child to learn coding would be to make them able to create programs and applications for performance tracking in sports. Similarly, if your child is good at fine arts, then coding may be seen as a way to enable them to create a program through which they can share their creative work with the outside world.

    child coding, coding programs for kids, programming for kids, teaching kids codingDefining The Purpose Of Learning To Code Helps Your Child Get A Direction

    To put it precisely, the purpose of teaching coding to your child should not be limited to making them ready for future jobs. We are living in a world where technology is constantly changing, and a code that codes autonomously is already a reality. Hence, seeing coding only as a way to a successful career in tech, in the long run, might just be the narrowest possible vision to hold. Let the purpose of teaching coding to your child be aligned with what their natural talents and interests are.

    From ‘No-Code’ To ‘Code’: A Step-By-Step Approach For Your Child

    When beginning to train your child on coding, know that coding is never a marker of success or failure. Rather, learning to code is a transitional journey, and during each step of this transition, having a trusted education partner to handhold your child might be very helpful. Every child who learns to code will have their own pace of progress, and pushing for faster results may do more harm than good. Let us now demonstrate for you, a 5-step approach to learning to code for a child.

    1. Begin with block-based programming languages with highly interactive interfaces having bright colours, clear labels, and interesting characters, that simplify the learning process, and keep children interested and engaged. You can start with Scratch, Blockly, or Ruby, and guide your kids to create games, animations, and programs.

    2. Gradually, move to more logical, object-oriented programming language-based platforms, like Alice, that will help your child understand fundamental programming principles like logical and computational thinking, but will still be based on a ‘drag-and-drop-building-blocks’ system to keep them going without losing interest.

    3. Often, kids may feel overwhelmed or frustrated because of the complexity of nonlinear programs, so, before kids move to more complex programming languages, it might be a good idea to introduce them to open-source platforms like Twine, which help them structure complex programs. It will not teach them how to code, but will help them develop the planning and designing skills they’ll need to code.

    4. Once kids understand the fundamentals and are exposed to the ‘no-limit world of programming’ it is suggested to help them transition gradually to beginner-friendly scripting languages like Lua (Roblox), which is very similar to Python but less complex, or JavaScript, because of its clean, uncluttered approach towards programming as compared to Java.

    5. By this stage, your child is likely to have understood the unlimited potential of coding, and developed a constructive overview of how to develop programs to solve daily life problem statements. They are now likely to find their own exposure to more complex languages like Java, #C, Python. There are now multiple online and offline resources to help your child get the right support to learn complex coding.

    Ensuring The Joy Of Coding As Well As That Of The Physical World

    Learning to code is going to be an essential part of the lives of today’s children, but parents could take care of a few points to ensure that their kids are able to get the best out of learning to code, while not having to compromise in any way, on the other aspects of their holistic growth:-

    • Learning to code can initially be frustrating, especially when the kids sometimes make mistakes and the program stops functioning. In such cases, kids are required to go back through sets of complex and jumbled-up codes to figure out where they went wrong, which might induce irritability. Keep reiterating to your child that this is a part and parcel of the learning process, and do not let yourself or your child get over ambitious about doing everything at once.

    • However much coding might become essential, it can never make up for the life skills and cognitive skills that children learn and develop when they get out in the real world, be it for play or at school. So, as parents, it is our duty to make sure that the time spent learning to code on the screen is balanced adequately with enough time spent playing outside.

    It is imperative to welcome the changes that the world is witnessing, but at the same time, we need to stick to our core values under every condition, because it is ultimately from them that everything else emerges. The human brain has created the code and not vice versa, which is enough evidence that the former is, and shall always remain more powerful. What is important is to nurture the brain in all aspects for it to create something even mightier than the code tomorrow. It is great to be a coder, but it is not the only pathway to success, what is needed is to use coding as a way to create a frame of mind that is open to learning new skills.

    Rishi Gupta is an AI and automation enthusiast with over two decades of techno-managerial exposure while working with Wipro, IBM, HCL Technologies, and Airbus. He is now heading the department of Service and Automation Products with Emirates Global Aluminium. He is Domain Expert in Artificially Intelligent IT Ops and Digital IT Service Management, Cyber Security and Digital Identity Management, HR and Digital Workplace Solutions, Digital Process Mining, and Robotic Process Automation.

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