Many parents will often ask us a variety of questions about computer coding and programming. Embedded within their question is a curiosity about whether or not this technology acumen is really for their child. Or, at times, it may even be an insecurity because of something that someone told them when they were a kid about who should learn about computers and who shouldn’t. And, often there is a perception that not everyone needs to learn how to code computers because either that will be left to the artificially intelligent robots or someone’s else’s kid. As an education technology industry, I think we have done a disservice to parents if they think this.
While it’s understandable with the heavily promoted and supported coding introductions that not everyone fully understands what coding is all about or even more problematic; if you don’t pick up coding in an hour then you should move on to something else.
In reality, learning to code and programming is fundamentally a much simpler value proposition. At it’s core, learning to code computers is about understanding how computers work. Sometimes, this will be through writing software to make the computer execute a task. At other times, it will be building a new piece of hardware to complete a task.
There are many different hardware and software combinations that come together in order to make computer programs, mobile applications and hardware devices. However, the essence of what our business and others like us teach is an understanding of how computers work.
With this knowledge, your child may become a computer programmer or they may become an architect. Or, they can choose to become anything in between. The education of technology as it relates to computer hardware and software is about helping students understand how the technology works all around them and then if they choose to solve platforms using these platforms to be prepared for what that might be like.
Unfortunately, that means that you aren’t really going to learn how to code in just one hour. In fact, you may not even learn how to code in 1 year or 5 year or 10 years. But, a good educational program will help your child understand how computers work and how computers can be used to solve a wide variety of problems.
Learning to code doesn’t mean your child will go into tech. In fact, we believe that an understanding of how technology works is generalizable to a wide variety of industries. She may use data science to develop a cure for Alzheimer’s disease within the medical field. Or, he may build a robot that can find people in buildings using advanced vision technology and algorithms. There are an infinite number of possibilities for what can be built with technology.
For some students who are given an understanding how computers work, they will want to dive in and learn more and more. While others may say, you know what this isn’t for me. But, at the very least, once they have a fundamental understanding of how computers work they can make an intelligent decision vs ruling it out because they heard they have to be good at math or technology isn’t really for people who look like me.
As long as you enjoy problem solving, technology learning opens up lots of different applications to use these tools. Conversely, there are also great problem solvers who have studied other subjects and may never write a computer program.
Technology is unique in that because of the ever evolving nature, you have numerous opportunities to learn how to practice creative problem solving. This solution and learning capability is very powerful and creates the necessary failures in developing solutions that ultimately lead to unique solution sets.
Perhaps, we have been presenting the wrong question to students and parents. Instead of “should my child learn how to code?”, we should be asking “do you want your child to know how computers work?”.
Within this field of study, you can learn about coding, 3D modeling, robotics, video game design, graphic design, animation, data science and cryptography. Whereas, with coding, we are forcing parents to focus on a narrow subset within technology that may or may not interest their child.
By expanding the definition of what can be learned in computing, we open up the possibilities for those who are interested in technology but may not even know what is involved in coding. And, if more people catch the learn about computing bug; that’s great. But, for those who try and say that’s not for me; that’s OK too.