Coding is becoming increasingly popular in education and parenting circles, and for good reason! But if you’re left thinking “what is coding and why should I care?”, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Coding has been around for decades but it has really only been over the last few years that it has hit the mainstream as a “need to know” skill. Today let’s break down everything you need to get your kids started with coding.
What is coding?
We like to explain coding as the language we use to communicate with technology. We can’t just tell our computer what we want it to do like we would give instructions to another person; they don’t speak human languages! Coding is how we “talk” to our technology to give it instructions to carry out.
What’s really cool is that just like there are many kinds of human languages (English, French, Chinese, Swahili, just to name a few) there are many different coding languages as well! They might look different, but just like with human languages, the fundamental principles are the same. Just like all human languages have nouns and verbs, there are core concepts that are the same across the board in all coding languages.
Just like learning a new language, learning to code can be a challenge at first! Just like stumbling through French as a beginner, it can be hard to communicate yourself clearly to your technology so it does exactly what you want when you’re first getting started. Computers can’t guess at what we mean; even having one letter off or missing a semi-colon can mean your entire code won’t work! But, when you get it right, knowing how to code allows us to do and create some truly amazing things (hello, cell phones!).
Why is coding important?
The biggest reason that is often listed when people talk about why you should learn to code is that it is a hugely in demand skill. And they aren’t wrong; knowing how to code can open you up to a lot of high paying jobs and can even open doors for you in industries you wouldn’t automatically associate with coding (like educators, car mechanics, and small business owners).
But beyond that, coding is actually an inherently valuable thing to learn even if you never end up using it in your job.
First and foremost, learning code moves you from just being a digital consumer to a digital creator. Rather than just mindlessly using technology or not knowing how it works, learning to code helps you learn how to use technology to create new things and manipulate technology in unique ways that helps us take control of our interactions with tech. This is how we’ve made some of our most important technological advancements!
Even more than that, coding teaches us to think differently! A common term used when talking about coding is “computational thinking”. This is basically a form of problem solving that means approaching a problem and expressing a solution in such a way that a computer could follow it. Essentially, learning to code (and going through all the trials, tribulations, mistakes, and “aha!” moments that go with it) makes you a better problem solver because it gives you a new way to understand problems and come up with solutions!
Last but not least, coding is fun! It’s really cool to be able to use technology to create new things and bring your ideas to life. Whether you are 4 or 84 years old, you can learn to code and have fun doing it!
How do I get started?
The best part about coding being so popular is that there is now tons of different options for tools and games to help you get started (and have some fun along the way)! Here are 3 of our favourite coding apps that you can use (for free!) at home.
Lightbot is a fun, game-based way to learn how to code. Your character is a super cute robot that you need to navigate through different mazes using code. Along the way, you learn about key coding concepts as the levels get more complex. We love this game because it really requires you to think from the perspective of your robot; some of the levels are quite challenging and really test your skills!
Scratch is one of the most (if not the most) popular tools used in classrooms to teach kids how to code. Scratch Jr is available for younger students (grades K-2) to get started. This program was developed by MIT specifically for kids, so you know it’s well thought out. Basically, you can create scenes and stories with code using a variety of backgrounds characters (called sprites) and movements in a fun and creative way to explore coding.
Kodable is an awesome way to really dive deep into the fundamental skills of coding. Levels are organized into categories designed to help you learn specific skills like sequence, conditions, loops, and more. Even better, it has a variety of options available for different age groups, so it can be used for the long term. Plus, your character is an adorable fuzz ball, so the cuteness levels are off the charts
We hope this has inspired you to give coding a try! Don’t let all the movies scare you into thinking that coding is all about typing as fast as you can as you try to hack into the FBI. Coding has a method to the madness and it can open up a whole new world of fun and learning if you just give it a try!
What are your favourite coding tools and games? Let us know in the comments below!