Bookmark this post: Coding for kids – what you need to know

January 25, 2017

I'm reading so many articles about the importance of coding in schools, and why our kids should be learning coding to get ahead and stay there. One of the latest posts I read was something along the lines of "Why your child needs to learn coding to get a job". It's scary for me to feel left behind when it comes to my son's future and education, and if you're feeling the same way, this is a post about coding basics, and what's good to know.

I spoke to Michelle Lissoos of Think Ahead, a company that works with schools to help them with "21st century learning", whether it's learning with iPads, or coding workshops. Their list of services is long (see more here) and if your child's school is needing some support, or if you're looking for extramural coding and other workshops and courses, then Think Ahead is that resource. 

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We all hear about how coding is so important, and vital for our kids to learn it. Why is this?

The future of our world is digital. We are living and learning in the era of continuous technological disruption 

According to Gartner: one-third of all jobs will be converted into software, robots and smart machines by 2025. 65 % of children in primary school today are predicted to work in jobs that have yet to be invented. All of these changes are converging towards what is now called the  Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Jobs with repetitive tasks will be replaced by technology – it is therefore getting more and more important to provide a child now with a rich foundation in integral thinking and problem solving. There is also going to be a huge demand for computing jobs across the world. In fact it's hard to imagine a single career that doesn't have a need for someone who can code. Everything that "just works" has some type of code that makes it run. Coding is all around us.  Coding is no longer for the “GEEKS “ – it really is a worthwhile skill for all. 

Besides the job future, coding teaches such critical skills such as resilience, grit, persistence, logic and problem solving. 

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What is Think Ahead's CodeSpace, and how is it teaching kids to code?

Think Ahead’s CodeSpace makes coding educational journey fun, creative and interactive. CodeSpace has been designed to teach children the basics of computer programming and apply technology skills through creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving. CodeSpace offers extra mural and holiday activities, as well as coding lessons for schools.

If parents don’t want to learn coding themselves, how can they get involved or encourage our kids to code?

You don’t have to understand or even be interested in coding to spark an interest in your child.  One of the easiest ways to make coding fun is to bring it into the real world with robotic toys, such as Sphero SPRK+ or drones, which can be coded.  Another way is to have a friend join their child at CodeSpace Holiday Camp. Having someone to have fun with and to collaborate with makes a big difference in keeping the interest alive.

How can parents stay ahead, especially if their schools aren’t offering coding lessons?

There are thousands of great resources online to assist parents and children to learn how to code.  Think Ahead recommends attending a CodeSpace Holiday Camp to teach children the fundamental principles of coding.  Once they have this foundation, parents can form part of communities such as Hour of Code, Scratch and especially Swift Playgrounds to guide their child into becoming a coding genius.

What are some good coding apps to start out with?

Scratch (Free)

With Scratch, you can program your own interactive stories, games, and animations — and share your creations with others in the online community.

Scratch helps young people learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively — essential skills for life in the 21st century. Scratch is a project of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. 

Hopscotch (Free) 

The controls and characters are not as extensive as Scratch and Tynker, but Hopscotch is a great tool to begin helping students without coding experience learn the basics of programming, logical thinking and problem solving.

Daisy the Dinosaur (Free) 

From the makers of Hopscotch, Daisy targets the youngest coders. The interface is similar to Hopscotch but much simpler. There is only a dinosaur to move and only basic functions to use, but for your younger students, this is an excellent introduction to programming.

Tickle (Free)

Tickle allows you to learn to program LEGO, Star Wars BB-8, Arduino, drones, robots, connected toys, and smart home devices, all wirelessly. Tickle is easy to learn, yet incredibly powerful. Peek under the hood to see your code in Swift 3.0, the world's fastest growing programming language.

Swift Playgrounds, newly launched by Apple (Free)

Swift Playgrounds is a revolutionary new app for iPad that makes learning Swift interactive and fun. Solve puzzles to master the basics using Swift — a powerful programming language created by Apple and used by the pros to build many of today’s most popular apps.

Take on a series of challenges and step up to more advanced creations. Swift Playgrounds requires no coding knowledge, so it’s perfect for students just starting out. It also provides a unique way for seasoned developers to quickly bring ideas to life. And because it’s built to take full advantage of iPad, it’s a first-of-its-kind learning experience.

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