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Coding and Kids

When a child understands how to code, they no longer have to accept technology as it is handed to them. They can understand how something works and adapt it to work for them.

You may have already seen your kids tinkering with coding, or are yourself considering learning. But what exactly is coding? Unlike the Matrix film images that this question conjures up, coding is simply what makes it possible to create computer software, apps for phones and websites like this one. Your web browser, the operating system on your PC, the apps on your phone – all of these are made and changed with code.

If you understand code, you can quickly understand how software works and how to fix it if there are any bugs in it. But this is only the beginning. There are so many benefits to learning code. Even more so for your kids.

Why every child should learn how to code

If there were ever a good reason to let your child sit in front of a computer for a few hours, it is to improve their coding skills. Here are just a few of many reasons why:

Improve learning

You only have to hand your iPhone to a toddler to see that kids absorb new information and use new technologies with very little trouble, but how do these technologies impact on children’s learning in other areas. A report conducted by the 20/20 Trust NZ shows that digital technologies have a positive impact on children’s learning in areas other than information technology.

Job security

Coding is already on track to be the most valuable career-based skill of the future for jobs in fields from fashion to health care. Learning coding at a young age keeps kids on the front foot for future job opportunities.

Community

Code-whizz 12-year-old Amelia Lockley recently led an event at the Beehive where primary students had the opportunity to teach members of parliament to code. Getting your kids involved in community-based learning with their peers builds confidence at a young age and fosters learning in a fun environment. But don’t just take our word for it.

Amelia now has a regular YouTube slot on What Now, teaching digital creation through coding. She plans to be a mechatronic engineer, and says herself that every child in New Zealand should have the opportunity to learn to code.

“Every job has technology in it, from farming to fashion design so everyone should learn to use it at an early age.”

How you can get your child involved

Many local initiatives are looking for ways to involve kids in technology, whether by learning together or encouraging kids to teach the elderly how to use their computers.

Code Club Aotearoa is a not for profit organisation that teaches coding to children aged 9-12 throughout the country. Volunteers teach at after-school coding clubs or at non-school venues like libraries. Parents can volunteer and local community clubs can offer their venue for use.

Children learn to make computer games, animations and websites. The coders use ScratchJr to learn the fundamentals of coding and then more complex coding languages including HTML and Python.

If your child prefers independent learning, there are online courses such as those found on code.org that teach children to code from as young as pre-school. Code.org includes games from Disney with your kids’ favourite characters. At different stages of the games there are educational tutorials and interviews from Disney engineers who have worked on games for websites like starwars.com.

Tynker is another learning system that teaches kids to code. Kids start out playing with visual blocks, then move on to JavaScript and Python while designing games and building apps.

Girls just wanna learn code

A lack of women in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) has been largely blamed on a lack of encouragement for young girls to pursue these areas. Tynker argue that this can be corrected by encouraging girls’ interest in making.

“The key to getting more girls interested in STEM is to encourage and expose them to making. Whether it be through designing, building, coding, or the arts, making provides them with a pathway to learn and explore new ideas and technologies.”

There are clear benefits for all children who learn to code. Outside of future job security, several studies have linked acquiring coding as a second language to supporting the development of problem solving skills and logical thinking. Just having a basic understanding of programming gives you a unique perspective on the way you think about complex problems and finding creative solutions. But what about you? Kids catch onto things so fast, how can you understand what they’re up to?

If you’re not sure how you can get involved, start with your child’s school or local code club. Or, why not just ask your kids what they are learning.

Principal David White of Decile 5 Marshall Laing Primary School explained to the NZ Herald how the children in his class share their work with their parents.

“All our children have Google Drive. It’s a great format for sharing stuff with collaborators, so kids are doing that all the time,” he said.
“We often do brainstorming stuff. The kids share it with their parents and parents are chipping into the lessons. They are very proud of sharing their work with their parents and often their grandparents.”

Summary
When a child understands how to code, they no longer have to accept technology as it is handed to them. They can understand how something works and adapt it to work for them. Coding is the future and setting your child up with this second language now is a keen investment in their job security. Teach your children to make. Encourage your children to become innovators rather than consumers and, most of all, have fun together doing it!

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