Software Coding or programming send shivers down the spines of normal mortal beings because programming is “hard”, technical, mathematical and only reserved for those brilliant minds who look at the world and see things which mere humans fail to see, the invisible connections in logic and problem solving the ability to “think outside of the box” and all that hallaballoo.
I am a coder, but so is Izak, my 5 year old son. I learnt it on my own by spending countless nights exploring and prodding till I failed and then re-started again maybe with a different ending, Izak learns it with specialist tools such as kodable® on my iPad. The beauty of it is that Izak does not even realize that he is making headway in problem sequencing and algorithmic creation because for him “he is just playing” but for his mind and skill set it is a doorway to self-learning and faster knowledge acquisition.
Programming in terms of education is the ability to deconstruct abstract problems by using logical thinking and problem solving skills to find a solution and translating it into an efficient, evolvable algorithm which can be implemented using computer software. This sounds like a lot of technical jargon, but in reality we do it every day and every second of our lives (maybe not consciously).
One of the first steps in algorithmic creation is understanding the world around us, and we all start by teaching the flow in mundane tasks, such as “filling a bath” or “boiling a kettle”, such as close the plug, open tap, check temperature, etc. however this is currently being done only when the student reaches mature age, which frankly resolves nothing since most of the reasoning and cognitive patterns are already in place by then and are harder to change.
Graphical Icon Based Programming makes it possible for young children (as young as 4 years old) to get over all the text-based barriers to learn the principles of coding, namely; the principles of computational thinking. We are interested in this, because it instills two important factors in our students’ early lives whilst the mind is developing its core concepts; logical problem solving and the impetus of exploration and self-learning.
Coding in the early years is fuelling the skills revolution, a child is instilled with such problem analysis skills at such an early stage, one can only imagine the capabilities such a population will have when they get to higher levels of education. Instilling curiosity and exploration will help in further education and life-long learning. Pilot projects which are completed and some of which are nearing completion all show that students find coding “fun and liberating”.
Another aspect which cannot be undermined is the fact that today’s generation is growing up fundamentally dependent on machines which they do not understand. Future proofing our generations is fundamental for skills progression.
Coding must not remain a specialist skill but a commodity to benefit all.