Within the coding for kids space, we keep ourselves educated on the emerging narrative. While there are passionate believers that this is an essential skill that is worthy of investment (time & resources), there are also those who don’t quite believe that coding is something that should be taught to children. Below, we have compiled the biggest coding for kids myths.
#1. If my kid isn’t already technical, coding isn’t for them
As parents, we want our kids to be good at everything they put their minds towards. Unfortunately, there is a difference between natural & developed abilities. Some people have a natural genius towards technology. This can be cultivated through early exposure, natural curiosity, or simply how their mind is structured. However, if we only pushed kids towards things they are good at; we might never truly witness greatness in any profession. Many of those who truly excel in a profession are those who are willing to put in the work over a period of years to become the best.
#2. Unless you’re teaching my kid using text-based languages, that isn’t really coding
When most kids learn to read, their parents don’t start them on Moby Dick. Instead, we start with learning letters and then progress to letter sounds and on to sounding out a word. Over time, sounds advance to words, words to sentences, and sentences to paragraphs. However, at this point, one can still not be considered a reader until they can comprehend the words they are reading. Through the development of phonemic awareness, vocabulary, context and tone; kids ultimately gain all the building blocks necessary to become readers. At this point is when practice takes over. Kids who become great readers are constantly consuming books. And even then, they still need help in understanding certain words or what a key passage is trying to convey.
Learning to building with technology follows a similar path of development. Kids must first understand that programming is fundamentally about giving a set of instructions to a computer for repeated execution. However, starting a child off with a text-based language would be no different than teaching someone how to read using Moby Dick. Yes, all the basics are contained within the text. But, there is a much more proven path to outlining and progressing through the fundamentals. Visual based languages like Scratch enable kids to learn the ABC’s of coding, along with putting the different structures of coding together (loops, conditional statements, variables) within increasingly complex projects that teach the logic behind building with technology.
Once this baseline is established, kids are much better prepared to begin writing their masterpieces using languages that are best designed to solve the problem they are focused on. Similar to reading, they can then being the long process towards mastery which involves hypothesis, experimentation, failure and ultimately learning.
#3. Kids don’t need to learn how to code, they simply need to have digital literacy & proficiency. Future apps and websites will enable them to bring their ideas to life with minimal coding.
This myth is probably one of the most dangerous mindsets when it comes to coding. The idea that creation can be outsourced to a program of someone else’s design is very imaginative and extremely unrealistic. For many years, there have been website development tools that enable simple site creation by those who are not technically inclined. However, what users of these sites often find is that to move beyond the constraints of the template, they have to learn the basics of coding. If we still haven’t figured out how to remove the ability to code from website development, I can’t imagine that we will be able to outsource artificial intelligence, virtual reality, blockchain or any of the other continuously emerging and developing technologies that will become mainstream of the next several decades.
#4.Teaching kids how to code is just a means to drive future wages down
While increased competition certainly creates downward wage pressure over time, I don’t think that companies across the world are colluding to pay their current tech workers less. Instead, I think there is a stark realization that without increasing the number of tech-capable workers, future growth potential is limited. Especially when we think about all the exciting new technologies that are being developed, there will be a need for more workers not less. Perhaps, over 50 years, we might eventually see downward wage pressure for these roles. However, that comes with the assumption that the landscape for technology-based solutions remains fixed. For example, if we examine the growth of the blockchain; this is something that wasn’t even on most people’s radars 10 years ago. One can forecast that there will be several new technologies that are invented which will create increased demand for workers who are knowledgeable in these areas.
#5. Coding for kids is a boutique idea - it can’t scale within the current school infrastructure
While there are certainly challenges within the existing infrastructure, we can’t simply allow current limitations to get in the way of the future success of our children. Yes, teaching kids how to code will require a substantial investment for our schools to train teachers, develop curriculum, and build learning environments that enable the development of these skills. However, we can’t simply allow these challenges to inhibit the hard work that will be required to push this initiative forward. Teaching kids how to build with technology must become a core focus of schooling. At Digital Adventures, our program which is primarily hosted after-school and weekends is a start. But, the reality is that we only work with kids for 1-2 hours each week. On the other hand, they are in school for 35-40 hours each week. Even if they spent just 1 hour a day learning to build with technology in school, that would provide the increased exposure, hours of practice and development necessary to set our children up to solve really difficult problems.
Many of the people who believe that not all kids should learn to code are well-meaning. There are even those who have hit on a fundamental truth about teaching kids to code – it’s not about the coding; it is about teaching kids to become better problem solvers. However, it is important to not simply stop there. We believe that many of the most difficult problems can and will be solved through the intelligent application of technology. And, in order to do this, the next generation has to both understand how to solve problems using technology and recognize that they have the capability to solve these problems because they have built their foundational skills over time.