In a world highly influenced by an accelerative growth in technological innovation, one is bound to encounter a myriad of computer-operated products. These devices are generally the result of thousands (more like millions) of lines of code designed to self-regulate their electrically-powered operation. The infinitely long list of programs and applications that populate computers and computer networks (the Internet, mostly) are a further indication of the importance placed upon programming language knowledge in daily life.
This, of course, is all stemming from the current phase in human evolution where information, data, and software creation have all taken precedence in tackling worldly challenges. Thus, it is only reasonable that introducing the subject of coding to the next generation early on will greatly aid in resolving present software challenges in this newly entered Information age.
Even with computer technology accounting for many of the world’s up-to-date learning devices, it is still apparent that a large percentage of children worldwide do not have consistent access to computers. Schools must better assist in the technological assimilation process by providing students with the learning tools that will ultimately benefit the whole of humanity.
The LA Unified School District has stepped up and contracted Apple to provide its 640,000 students with iPads by the end of next year. Tablet computing platforms in general have an interactive and alluring quality that make them incredible tools for entertainment, productivity, and education. This move will make the LA Unified School District the largest district in the US to provide its students with Apple’s innovative technology. The plan also hopes to inspire similar nationwide adoption of school provisioned learning devices.
With access to such devices, one can now begin to determine the programming fundamentals that should be taught to the younger crowd. In the US, the responsibility is currently in the hands of advocacy groups such as Code.org and the Computer Science Teachers Association. Only a smidge more than 10 percent of secondary schools in the US provide computer science classes to students, and very little funding is allocated to teaching the subject. Online access to websites such as EdX and Code.Org, which provides a large selection of free programming resources, is of even greater importance to students.
The UK has already began expanding the availability of programming classes in schools. A new draft to the National Curriculum, taking effect in 2014, will have children learning programming fundamentals at the age of five. Code Clubs that teach children basic programming on Scratch Jr., a bi-product of the Scratch programming language, have quickly grown to account for a total of 948 nationwide clubs.
Unlike most text-based programming environments, Scratch is a tile-based visual environment that lets kids learn coding through the creation of animations, interactive art, and games. This program, created by Mitchel Resnik at the MIT Media Lab in 2003, utilizes sprites in an event-driven platform that kids then use in the construction of their programs. By simply providing an entertaining and interactive resource like Scratch, young students begin to learn about sequential command strings and data control flow, concepts fundamental to the mastery of coding.
Teaching children how to code, regardless of the style taught, will lead to creative, technological solutions to many of the world’s current challenges. Programming, which can itself transform the way one thinks about and interacts with information in their environment, requires more attention as a core subject for the next generation of coders.