Kids are very into technology. It's one of the elements of their environment. However, there are still far too many adults and kids who think that coding is too complicated for them to learn. The reality is that nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the boundary conditions have never been more fertile for a massive number of kids to learn how to code. In this post, we outline the reasons why this is a great time for kids to learn how to build with technology.
1. It’s built into their favorite games - Minecraft & Roblox
Playing video games has been a growing trend for the past several decades. Two gaming platforms, Minecraft & Roblox that were invented around the same time enables kids to modify the code so that they can further customize the game based on their curiosity and interest.
This enables kids to immediately translate ideas that they have imagined into reality. There is nothing more powerful from a learning standpoint than wondering what it might be like to add a feature to your favorite game and being able to instantly bring that curiosity to life.
There is now an entire generation of kids who have gained a powerful understanding that coding is simply learning how to give instructions to a computer using the platform of their favorite games.
Since they already enjoy the games, this is a low-pressure way of learning and growing their skills.
2. Kids are digital natives - Coding is intuitive
Many adults have witnessed the evolution of cellular phones from a device that you could call people when you were away from home to a powerful mini computer that you carry around in your pocket. For kids, the level of baseline technology capability has been pretty high for nearly their entire lives.
They have seen how when you want to learn something, you can ask Alexa or type a query into Google. By having a digital native environment, they see coding as intuitive. In essence, they have been providing instructions to computers for their entire lives. Whether it is through voice commands or structured text, they understand that computers are powerful tools to help you do important things.
Similar to gaming platforms, the next step is when they bump against the natural limits of the existing tools and wonder what else can I do with a computer. By asking this simple question, the natural evolution is that they will need to write code to accomplish the additional desired functionality. In a way, the technology is both teaching them about how it works and creating the momentum for future invention and innovation.
3. Instructors are accessible to help you learn
With the growth of technology, we have seen a similar increase in the number of people who have both learned and applied their coding skills. This means that there are just more people available to help kids learn to code.
In disciplines where there is a tremendous amount of specialization and a limited number of people who have developed the skill, there can be an impediment to who can guide and coach the next generation.
While coding is by no means a second language for most people, there are many people with enough basic knowledge to where kids don’t have to look too long to find someone who can help.
For a process that requires gaining new knowledge, the number of teachers can help either get a student quickly unstuck or point them in the right direction to find the knowledge they need so that learning can continue.
Over the coming years, we will continue to see more and more people gaining basic coding skills which will help make the overall ecosystem more helpful to those who are just getting started.
4. Lots more options to help understand coding
We’re all familiar with the stories of those like Bill Gates who had priority access to a computing terminal during his formative years. This gave him a tremendous advantage in being able to create an amazing company like Microsoft.
For the current generation, there are an abundance of options. There are synchronous coding classes. There are asynchronous coding videos. There are helpful guides and libraries that are shared on the internet. There are message boards and forums that enable people who are having issues to ask specific questions. There are books that have been published on coding.
As these options have increased no longer is it accidental that someone will have an advantage in learning how to build with technology. Instead, parents can be intentional with finding opportunities for their kids to learn in the modality that is best suited to their learning behavior.
Within this environment, you will be able to develop many more coders at all levels of ability because the accessibility has increased dramatically. Going forward those who don’t know coding will simply be because they have chosen not to instead of it being that they didn’t have access to one of the few computing terminals available globally while Gates was coming of age.
5. It’s a natural evolution of their digital fluency
When the wi-fi goes down, many kids know that they need to reset the router. If the Apple TV is frozen, many kids know that they can perform a hard reboot by unplugging it. If a computer is not functioning properly, many kids know that it may require a software update. In fact, something as simple as knowing that you click on the X to close out of a program is intuitive due to the repeated exposure of these concepts.
Given kids developing a growing digital fluency, it is completely natural for them to ask not only what can these hardware and software tools do out of the box but what can I change about the code to get it to do what I want?
As this curiosity takes hold, they begin to perform experiments - changing the background and the functionality of their tablets or smartphones. Or beginning to see if they can hack their GPS applications when they are headed to a friend’s house.
While there are many ‘hacks’ that are built into hardware and software platforms & programs, the real expansion comes when they go behind the scenes into the code used to make these programs. For many technologies this can be very difficult. However, this is an important part of the learning process and leads to a growth in their knowledge base.
There has never been a better opportunity for kids to learn how to code. With all the tools that are at their fingertips, we are going to see more preparation than we ever imagined was possible during their key developmental years. The more kids who believe they can code and put that insight into action, the more innovation and invention we can expect to see from the next generation. And, that is one of the most exciting trends in recent memory.