Why teach kids to code?

We're all aware of the abuses of technology. One of the best ways you can help your kids grow in wisdom when it comes to online decision making is to show them the good uses of technology. Namely, that it is used for creating solutions for the world's most difficult problems. Enter the Hour of Code. You may have heard of it. It's a movement which encourages students to learn at least one hour of coding during the week of December 8-14. The website is open year-round, though, and over 97 million people have joined the fun.

But, what's the point?

By 2020, 60% of math and science related jobs will be directly related to computer programming. That's a staggering number — especially in light of the fact that only 2% of current math and science college students are majoring in computer programming. Besides the potential vocational benefits coding provides children, it also equips them with other skills, as well. You see, there's a huge misconception that the coding movement in education is about teaching kids to be app developers. Sure, that might happen, but that's just one sliver of possibilities. Coding helps students be creators in the world of ideas. Graphic design, mathematics, web design, app development, engineering, and medicine can benefit from persons who are familiar with coding.

Take Brittany Wenger, for example. When 17 years old, she was moved by her cousin's diagnosis of breast cancer and developed technology that can analyze breast tissue samples and make cancer detection calls up to 99% accuracy. Wow!

Code has other implications, too. It exercises problem solving skills, grammar & syntax, logic, and collaboration. Each of these are touched on in the Hour of Code's curriculum. At our school, we've noticed that children from 1st to 8th grade love the Hour of Code website and the ideas it introduces.

More resources

I've already touched on the Hour of Code and the fact that it has curriculum for early learners. It's one of the first places a parent or school should look if they're interested in teaching kids about code.

Once kids become familiar with the logic and principles of Hour of Code, you'll want to move to an slightly more sophisticated tool developed at MIT called Scratch. It has more abilities and options for kids to create their own interactive web apps, such as calculators, sound boxes, interactive presentations, and even sophisticated games. Kids can then submit their creations to the Scratch community and browse the works of other kids for inspiration.

The creators of Scratch also have an iPad app geared towards younger ages called Scratch Jr. It's much of the same principles from the above tools, but handy because it's iOS friendly.

A final note, albeit an anecdotal one

As one who has taught many classes of kids the above tools, I cannot understate the sense of empowerment and inspiration that comes when a child understands that he/she can, in fact, create in the digital space. A small spark fires off inside of them as they realize that they have potential to build and impact people around the globe.

I've seen students who are frustrated with their reading skills come alive when they learn how to write code. It seems to tap into an analytical, mathematical side of their brains which craves the immediate sense of accomplishment.

Give your child the tools for tomorrow. Teach them to write code.

Rick Stawarz

Minneapolis, MN

I am an Apple Certified Support Professional with over a decade of experience supporting families, schools, and businesses. Tech has always captured my imagination, but it's not my only passion. I'm an ordained Anglican minister;  Aeropress is a daily ritual of mine; I've driven across Mongolia; and I'm the father of three girls. I hope to provide for you a balanced and realistic perspective into the practicality of technology.