Using advanced technology does not elevate one to geek status anymore. Designing it does. And for that you need to code.
Lucky for you, with the right tools, children as young as 6 can learn the basics. Because the basics of coding are not writing words in an actual programming language. The basics are dissecting a problem into sub-components and developing precise step-by-step instructions (algorithms) to solve them.
|One of the first levels on code.org: instruct the angry bird how to reach the pig.|
I took my first computer class at age 12, learning the Eastern European equivalent of Basic on an old unit that for reasons unknown had a Russian keyboard. In 11th grade I learned Turbo Pascal, which was already considered outdated before I even finished the course. The most commonly used programming language 11.5 years from now when my oldest graduates from high school has maybe not even been invented yet. But what all of these languages have in common is logical problem solving, building algorithms, and figuring out how things work under the hood.
Sounds too complex for pre-teens? Then check out code.org. The last time a catastrophic 1.5 inches of snow brought school life to a complete stand still, Evel Knievel spent 2 snow days programming angry birds and zombies. A clever combination of instructional videos and programming challenges with increasing level of difficulty, it introduces the main building blocks of computer science: actions, functions, loops, conditions, variables - as visual building blocks, not as programming language. What made it so easy to use that iPad, now makes it just as easy to learn computer science.
|A more complex problem requiring conditions and loops on code.org|
The premise of code.org is that everybody can learn how to code. In fact, everybody should learn at least one hour of code. Because those coding skills are needed for much more than just computer programming. Making the perfect souffle and becoming the best designated hitter in the league have in common that you need to decipher the process of cooking or hitting (or waiting out a ball), and you need to build rules of how to react under all possible conditions. You need to build algorithms for your life - you need to code.
So the next rainy weekend, create an account on code.org, and let your kids learn an hour of coding. I bet you'll be amazed how far they will get.
Geek Factor: 5 out of 5
Fun Factor: 4 out of 5
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