In my life I have been blest with three children and with each child I celebrate the first words they said. The word “Mum” was the obvious choice by me but not by them as they progressed through all the other family members’ names first.
But I wonder how long it will be before the word “coding” becomes a child’s first word. That is “Ga, Ga, Ga – CODING, Ga, Ga, Ga”.
“Everyone in this country should learn how to program a computer- because it teaches you how to think” Steve Jobs
Really, take a step back and think about this…
In the last few months I have taken a real interest in the skill of “coding“. The term coding can relate to DNA; to statistical coding; to legal coding; to social science coding. These are just to name a few.
My interest was in the line of computer programming called “coding”. I am no expert at this but to generalise the understanding of coding it is to solve a “problem” through the use of a computer and algorithms. Each of which takes a sequential place in the solution.
Take a bank, for example. They would have a “code” to allow someone to access an ATM without the support of “human intervention”. It would follow a sequence of instructions to allow a “problem”, in this case how to get money out of a bank account”, to a solution, that is money in the hand.
Yet in our everyday lives we are flooded with examples of coding, sequential programming, but our school environments rarely mention it.
I recently spent sometime in a Year 6 classroom and introduced coding to them. It was a fascinating experiment. I asked them to describe the “steps” needed to get from their seat to the classroom door. At first it was a basic “You stand up and walk to the door” response. I followed these simple instructions to show them that they were limiting my movements to what I understood was the instruction. I could have walked for half an hour within the classrooom before I actually reached the door. We then spoke about “specific, defined” instructions. This process took quite some time as we continually refined our code of getting to the front door. As I said, it was fascinating.
Yet we take it for granted that this coding language happens in our modern society. I explained to the students that “someone”, “somewhere” had to write up a list of sequential instructions to allow something to happen. For a computer to work, a phone to ring, a boomgate to elevate and so on.
And this is where I brought in a software program called “SCRATCH“. Now this is just one example of coding software for students to explore and design and create things using the skill of coding. The higher order thinking in this activity could be “felt” in the room that day in Year 6. The discussions, the reasonings, the communication, the problem solving was “immeasurable”.
So why then is something so “hugely important” in society a word that many educators do not know of; never heard of; can’t explain and won’t attempt in the classroom. My opinion is that coding is as necessary in our world today as maths skills; as reading skills; as social skills; as science skills and physical activity and healthy lifestyle.
In America, high unemployment levels are no hidden fact yet each year computer programmers are hired by the thousands. This is not a “dying trade”. Many “famous people” are proficient in coding “Will I Am”, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs. These people started in computer languages and developed this skill. But the fact is, anyone can do it.
My own five year old computer “wizard” has just started a program called “light – bot” which allows him to follow the “if” something “then” something principle. He is experimenting with coding simply by making a character move along square patterns and lighting up the last square. He writes a sequential instructional command and the character moves…simple! Yet, even though he was navigating around a computer screen comfortably when he was 2, this is most definitely a “reachable goal” for most children.
So I ask when will our education environments be setting homework tasks using code; or having Open Days where the children can demonstrate their code experiment to parents, students and other community members, maybe a software company, or a bank manager, or a business owner. I dream when coding is set as a lesson next to the multiplication drill lesson, or the creative arts lesson.
“Coding” has no borders, it has no “culture”; it has no accent. It is the real, modern international language!