Published: November 25, 2016
In recent years, there has been a rising trend for programming classes in schools due to the efforts of Code.Org and various technology industry entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Hadi Partovi.
This resulted in many countries implementing Computer Science curriculum for schools on a national level. One such country is Singapore where the Ministry of Education (MOE) recently has confirmed that they are rolling out Computer Science curriculum as a GCE O level examination to 19 schools in 2017.
Due to the rising awareness for children to pick up computer programming at a younger age, there has been a lot of coding schools popping all over in recent years.
Some of those coding schools that i know of are First Code Academy, Smart Nation Coding Academy and Thinker Academy.
Depending on the coding school the children are send to, they might include the use of electronics or robotics like Dash, Lego Mindstorm, Raspberry Pi or Arduino to facilitate better understanding and promote interest in computer programming.
But before parents get all excited and send their children to these coding classes, there are some things to consider first. Allow me to highlight three of them.
Just like learning a human language, programming is not something that can be mastered in a matter of days, These coding classes introduce concepts that are basic but fundamental in helping the child understand how programming works.
Programming takes getting used to. So the key is to let the child enjoy and appreciate computing without the expectation to develop a complete software program at the end of the course. Most of these coding schools emphasise on making learning fun and interactive for the kids so that they will nurture a love for code in due time.
Many of coding schools offers various programming languages. Some might not even teach actual programming language. For example the visual based programming language created by MIT Media Lab called "Scratch" is especially taught to younger children age 6 to 11 years old to help them grasp programming concepts.
They allow a children to express their creativity without the need to conform to programming syntax early on and douse their enthusiasm prematurely. From my experience in the last 2 years teaching children between 7 to 15 years of age. I never cease to be amazed by the amount of creativity expressed from a child's work using Scratch.
A lot of coding schools may not require their students to take any tests to ascertain their programming skills. Instead, the students focus on producing a software project during the course.
It could be as simple as a software that draw shapes, a 2D game or allowing the child to present their work to their parents or classmates. This learning-by-doing approach in a peer learning environment is the best way for children to pick up and hone their programming skills.
When kids are exposed to programming early in life, the benefits are immense. They are learning a valuable life skill called Computational Thinking.
This is a problem solving thought process where problems are broken down into bite size chunks. Through analysing data of these bite size chunks, a step by step solution could be devised and then executed by computer or a robot to solve problems. So it is ultimately good to help children nurture a passion for problem solving.
In conclusion, I believe that by allowing your child to learn computer programming, you are helping them to think differently and explore various approaches to solve a problem. Just imagine what the social media world will be like if there's only one social networking site that is Facebook. We will have missed out Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram or Google+