Computer programming teaching to children

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Computer programming is a technique/process used to build executable computer instructions to solve problems for the computer. In definition, coding is the mainstay in computer programming, applications, computer apps, and websites. It is the vocabulary that interprets technology orders in reality, such as a computer game, a working website, or a smart door alarm. This research paper deals with computer programming in youth, a phenomenon that is now popular in this modern age.
Teaching children programming from a young age offers an appreciation of their modern environment. This article explores the outcomes of children’s teaching programming. It additionally explores methods employed to do that, and the differences in mode of instruction applied at different stages and ages of children.

Methodology

A quantitative approach is used using four sources, as stated in the literature review. The research paper is a secondary one. It is produced with information gained from highly cited resources. Qualitative methods are employed in the four sources different articles as expounded in the literature review. Two sources are published journal articles. The rest are website articles from sites of high repute. All sources remain relevant as they address prevailing issues in the digital age. Information presented is highly comparable across different sources. Programming also referred as coding, is understood correspondingly in all sources. The sources similarly view the teaching of programming to children as having a valuable effect, when coupled with employment of techniques that make it easy for young learners to understand.

Literature Review

Results of teaching kids programming

Erik Missio of a Canadian news website (CBC), purports in an article on why kids should learn to code, that teaching it helps the children with problem-solving and critical thinking. Skills learned in programming help children devise new ways of thinking and promote skills of solving problems with most suitable solutions. The skills learned have effect in other facets of the lives of such kids. Computational ways of thinking assist children have an understanding of useful ideas such as algorithms and heuristics (Missio, 2017). Decision-making, cause and effect and a sense of power are among skills and benefits derived from learning to code. Kids will have to correct code when it is faulty, debugging. That is a useful skill when applied to life (Tahnk, 2017).

Clements in his 1984 paper about the effect of teaching kids programming on their cognition, observes that environments that computer programming offers can facilitate useful rational models for children to master. It was previously believed that the programming environment is too abstract for their young minds, but that is since disproven. Computers have the ability to make abstract ideas practical and concrete. They assist children to learn better since their thinking process is conscious and diverse in its experiences. It allows kids to explore on the ‘how’ rather than the ‘what’ within their cognition. They become skilled thinkers. Variability of cognitive skills is achieved when kids are given extensive programming background. They are no longer limited to thinking for specific contexts (Clements & Gullo, 1984) (Smith, Cypher, & Schmucker, 1996).

Clements observes that understanding computer coding is essential to boost mathematical capacity in children. Computers were designed for solving complicated science problems in early times (Clements & Gullo, 1984). To understand and operate computerized machines, one needs a robust mathematical set of skills. Coding and mathematical competence are intertwined. Learning code early in life, therefore, helps children to be good at math and other subjects generally, as it is a core subject in schools the world over.

Coding is fun, according to Missio. Far from applicable reasons of learning code, creating some programs, games, or animations can be enjoyable especially for children. The fun derived from that boosts creativity and proficiency in programming. Future programmers can hone their skills from tender ages (Missio, 2017). Computer programming improves memory capacity of kids. The process of coding intensively involves memory. High concentration and the capability to manipulate numbers is required. Memory retention in children is sharpened in this process. The capacity to think in an analogical way is also grown, and that could be transferred to other areas of knowledge in life. Children, therefore, become better learners and problem-solvers throughout life. They have an advanced analogical thinking capability (Smith, Cypher, & Schmucker, 1996).

Jeana Lee Tahnk writes an article on the Huffington Post. She explores tools used to teach code to kids. Among skills learned by children who code is conditional thinking. Programming involves numerous dependent questions in different tasks of coding. These include the use of ‘if,’ ‘then,’ with or without ‘else.’ Kids get skills to use such conditional statements. Skills to use such statements are imperative in daily life. On top of that, coding adds extra educational benefit. Kids would feel more satisfied with their education for being able to manipulate computers in rather powerful ways. That is rewarding. Coding in childhood is an excellent foundation for the kids to be able to use and manage technology in the future. Children learn to consider all possibilities and outcomes of a decision. They think about factors that can change the results. Students can apply these skills of thoroughness in thinking to their lives and personal choices (Tahnk, 2017).

Computational thinking, passing thoughts of oneself across logically, is important in daily life. It involves exploring a problem and breaking it down to steps. Each of the problem steps is attempted in the best way possible children who can code from early in life think uniquely in a way that explores how the world works (Missio, 2017). The perspectives of the children to the world are refined. It also promotes creativity, since a lot of thinking outside the box is involved in coding. Written and oral communication is also improved, as a requirement for them to explain their program creations.

Observation is that with a solid foundation in childhood, children can grow to become competent programmers. That affords them opportunities to work in leading companies such as Apple and Google. They can get fulfilling and well-paid jobs to result in successful lives in their careers. Employers are very keen to hire job seekers with technological proficiency coding is one of the highest ICT skills and is thus able to make skilled employees attractive to employers. Programming is occasionally referred as the new form of literacy in the current world. Children, the world over, are being prepared from young ages for such a world. Coding is introduced from as early as middle and elementary schools. Some parents facilitate the teaching of their kids earlier than that, using simple apps that present coding environments to children (Smith, Cypher, & Schmucker, 1996) (Tahnk, 2017). The goal is to prepare them for the world that requires knowledge of code as a must and to make them able students of information technology and later to be competent employees in their careers.

Methods used to teach kids programming

Smith in his 1996 paper explores ways of assisting children in coding efficiently. Children require specialized environments to help them code efficiently. Symbolic simulations that use icons are essential. Users can manipulate these objects on the screen in a way that creates meaningful lines of code. Video games, for instance, follow this model, they are symbolic simulations. Programming is by demonstration, the syntax of a programming language is avoided. Visual scripts are applied. The actual script in a programming language is in the background. Examples of such systems include Cocoa (Smith, Cypher, & Schmucker, 1996)

Among the most popular current ways of teaching coding to children is through tools such as Scratch and Tynker. These are fun programs designed to attract children and, make them derive enjoyment from them, as they learn basic skills of coding. Children mostly use graphical representations of algorithms and code and put it all together. The actual script of code is written in the background (Tahnk, 2017) (Smith, Cypher, & Schmucker, 1996).

Differences in teaching children at different stages of their education.

Regardless of differences in children, coding camps, apps, websites, and resources keep coming up from everywhere. Parents should be aware that coding does not assure children of successful future careers, and neither is it welcomed by any kid. That is important to be accepted by parents. It is meant to be complementary and balanced out with other additional activities such as sports, arts, and music are. It is an additional interest (Tahnk, 2017).

Coding could be first learned from like the early years of preschool. It is like reading, a form of literacy. Writing and arithmetic in its use of symbols and its readability. Introducing coding concepts together with other preschool concepts is appropriate.

When parents teach their kids coding, the process allows them to provide loving and caring parental support. It also provides the majority of parents who do not know coding to learn it. They can be on the same level and learn and work alongside one another, an opportunity for fun.

From ages 3 to 5 years, apps such as Robot Turtles, Bee-bot, Daisy the Dinosaur can be used. Robot Turtles is a board game that requires commands and makes moves to get the prize. Bee-bot gets children in programming enthusiasm. They use arrow controls on the toy. A child can code for 40 moves and then wait to watch the bee to follow them. Daisy, the Dinosaur, is a free iOS program that uses drag and drops steps and commands. Children can manipulate the dinosaur to go as they command it code-wise.

In ages 6 to 7, children can use programs like Scratch Jr., Kodable, and Code.org. Scratch Jr. allows kids to make stories and games using characters that they create. They can include their voices and sounds and programming material to create what characters can do. Kodable includes an alien that tries moving out of a maze in a new planet. A kid can create commands to help it navigate and earn points progressively, as it leaves the labyrinth. Code.org is a website that offers many lessons of programming for children of all levels and ages. It is more like a game than an experience of basic algorithmic knowledge. It features video lectures from expert programmers such as Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates.

Recommended tools for kids of ages 8-10 include Sphero 2.0, Hopscotch, and Tynker. Sphero is a robotic ball that assists children to develop the interest in coding. It can be used on a smartphone or tablet. It is highly entertaining and educational, as applauded by critics. Reinforcing coding perceptions is useful. Hopscotch is a freeware app for iOS. It follows similar ideas of moving characters using prewritten commands. It, however, offers much more creativity. Older children can include extra characters and advance stories revolving around their code. Finally, Tynker is an online course. It is formal but is done in the comfort of the kids’ homes. Courses offered are a beginner or intermediate levels. The site provides a course with extensive studying, online tutorials, parent dashboard for monitoring kids and a lifetime access to the creativity suite by Tynker (Tahnk, 2017).

Conclusion

Teaching children how to code is a fast-growing trend. With the future that nowadays kids face, parents are keen to have their children know to code. It not only gives their children an edge but also offers skills useful in the digital age and society. Many individuals hold the view that ability to write code is a necessity in this era (Tahnk, 2017). As the world progresses in matters technology, the skill to proficiently use computers is a critical skill for everyone to acquire. Teaching and learning creative problem-solving and critical logical thinking are important and go hand in hand with the complex usage of computer (Clements & Gullo, 1984). That breeds the need to learn to code. That applies squarely to children as they prepare for a more digital world than the current one (Missio, 2017). Schools teach programming from as early as middle and elementary schools. Such children have an easy time learning to code later in life. Others start to learn at home from as early as three years of age (Tahnk, 2017). Such kids will have an easier time learning to code in formal settings. Countries are encouraged to revise curriculums to accommodate programming in their syllabi. Some countries continue to incorporate coding into their school curricula, and it turns out to be beneficial. Programming is an action that any kid can be into and is a useful step in learning towards a digital education and careers. Apart from filling schedules, many skills are learned during coding, both direct in a digital life and indirectly to other spheres of life (Tahnk, 2017).

References

Clements, D. H., & Gullo, D. F. (1984). Effects of Computer Programming on Young Children’s Cognition. Journal of Educational Psychology, 1051-1058.

Missio, E. (2017, March 28). Why Kids Should Learn To Code (And How To Get Them Started). Retrieved from Parents: http://www.cbc.ca/parents/learning/view/why-kids-should-learn-to-code-and-how-to-get-them-started

Smith, D. C., Cypher, A., & Schmucker, K. (1996). Making Programming Easier for Children. Interactions, 60-67.

Tahnk, J. L. (2017, March 28). Cool Products for Teaching Kids How to Code. Retrieved from The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeana-lee-tahnk/neat-products-for-teachin_b_7138030.html

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