With the increasing impact of technology in nearly every sector of the global business environment, coding has become a necessary language and skillset in the digital age. It is important for kids — both boys and girls — to start learning the language of code at an early age so they begin thinking about problem solving in a more fluid manner that empowers them to work in team environments that encourages community learning and collaboration.
The majority of students today have access to smart phones, tablets, and/or laptops as part of their education. Putting our kids in control over the technology through coding allows them to understand problem solving, logic, sequencing skills, and cause and effect. Allowing them to express themselves in a creative manner through the creation of games, apps, and websites gives them the power to build using their incredible imagination all the while empowering them to understand the critical thinking skills of coding in a fun way. The earlier we introduce coding to children, the more comfortable they will become with computers and technology and the more successful they will become when presented with more challenging learning opportunities.
What is it that kids love doing? They love playing. They love playing games. Whether it is outside, a board game, a video game, or a game on a phone or a tablet, these students have a passion. That passion is gaming. Gaming helps students learn, it motivates students to solve problems, learn conceptually, and increase memory retention — all through adventure. So, let’s take that passion at an early age and turn it into a fun way of learning a skill.
So, where do we start? How do we integrate coding into school? Well, as a start, there is a program called Scratch — built for kids ages eight to 16. Scratch is a project of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. You can use Scratch as part of your math class or technology class or even language arts class. From the math perspective, you can utilize Scratch to teach about the x and y coordinates and about angles and degrees. As part of technology class, you can start introducing a glossary of programming terminology like loops and conditionals. And language arts? Well, your students can create an interactive book report or an interactive story.
Another great way to introduce students to coding is by using Raspberry Pi; a low cost, credit card sized computer that you can plug into existing computer monitors at school and use a keyboard. One can program using Scratch in Raspberry Pi, learn a language like Python, create websites using HTML and CSS, build robots, and learn to make apps for Android devices. How do you find easy projects?
There are hundreds of free resources, lesson plans, tutorials and events that bring the power of coding into the K-12 classroom. Creating teams of students to work together on projects allows them to solve problems, create new projects, and use their creativity in a fun and safe environment that keeps school fun.