How About Teaching Kids To Code?
Let’s take a deep breath, close eyes and think about a day where we didn’t use our phone, desktop, laptop and all the digital gadgets that make our lives easy, help us communicate better, help us present ourselves better, entertain us, save our lives and so on. Seems hard right?
An article in the Irish Independent by Ciaran Cannon states that by 2020 there will be 25 billion devices connected to the internet, three for every single one of us on earth. Considering this digital era, it becomes utterly important for our kids to learn about computer science and digital technology as much as it is to learn about biology, chemistry, physics or math.
However, schools redundantly teach computer hardware and Microsoft Office applications in primary grades. Then suddenly in secondary grades, pitch students directly against programming languages.The idea of integrating computers with the self and surroundings, using it to build expression, solve problems is often missed out, undermining the potential of computers.
Is it acceptable that our children end up being passive, uninformed users of that technology without having a deeper understanding of how it works?
Code to Enhance Learning is a project that came in existence in April 2017 to challenge the status quo of how technology is being taught to kids in schools. We believe that one of the basic things that could be taught to kids is giving instructions to computers to create applications, animations and games so as to help them understand how computers work and things they can create with help of it.
We envision that every kid codes to express their feelings about self and surrounding while learning technical skills and problem solving. However, we don’t want every kid to pursue computers as their career. Art is taught in schools with no expectation that the students should become artists. Similarly, not everyone taught coding will have a career in information technology. However, being introduced to coding gives students an appreciation of what can be built with technology and push their thinking and to a higher level.
We empower schools and other organizations working with kids by supporting them with curriculum, teacher-student resources and professional development training. The curriculum aims to build concepts, skills and mindsets in kids which would not only help them to computationally think and write instructions to a computer to make an application but also empower them to think critically, create, persevere which would help them now as well as in future.
Through our program, we provide opportunities to kids to visit the universities and organizations working in computer science to explore space, meet experts, faculty and students and see the relentless work they do each day in the field of computer science and other forms of engineering to expose them to this field, make connections, dream about their future and make informed choices about it.
We organize Hackathon for kids, an hour-long sprint event, where kids are tasked with making an application or animation about the self or the community that they like and or want to change to express or solve a problem on Scratch, a block based programming environment developed by MIT Media Labs. Last year, 100 students participated from grade 4-9 in this Hackathon and made different projects about different things like girl power, children’s lives, child labor, transport systems, water pollution, and more. The projects were either in form of animation or interactive virtual books.
We believe that teaching coding is not just about introducing the syntax, concepts, etc. of a programming language but it’s about empowering the learner to connect with self and surrounding, express and problem solve using the art of coding. And this becomes the essence of everything that we do in our program.