kids can code

Is it worth teaching young kids to code?

Mark Guzdial’s “Computing Education Blog” is at the top of my personal list of education blogs to follow, there is always good content and great insight there. I hope to get a chance to bounce ideas off him someday soon.

Today he posted about “Is it worth teaching young kids to code?“.  I recommend you go read the post yourself as well as the original article that he is referring to from Wired.com.

My Take

This is not a critique or criticism since I agree with all Mark says in his blog post, I just wanted to single out this one sentence to add my perspective:

I am not convinced that we can fruitfully teach five or six year olds to code — though it’s certainly worth exploring and experimenting with.  I would not expect it to have much effect, though.

I honestly feel that confidence is a key factor to my undergraduate students’ success (or lack of) in their computing courses. I have been principally teaching the equivalent of CS1 for both CS majors and other engineers over the past year and this conversation about confidence has come up often.

I always find this course a challenge to teach due to the wide range of computing skills across the students in each classroom. The students that have been programming since primary school are mixed in with the students that are just starting to program. This intimidates the students with less experience. Just these past three weeks I have had to explain to these students that they will catch up to the others within the next year and inevitably they do.

I will see a student struggling for the first weeks of the course then they reach some tipping point which I still cannot predict and they fly through the rest of the material with confidence.  This is exactly why I love teaching this course despite the difficulty of a varied group.

This is where I see the benefit of programming early.  My children are already playing with Scratch (three children all in primary school) and my focus is not so much on making them ace programmers but getting them comfortable with programming.  I know that I was the student others turned to in my undergraduate courses back in the late 80s due to my previous three semesters of programming in high school.

Glove Tap to Glen Langston

Thank you Mr. Langston for your patience in guiding us through Logo and Pascal in high school, it gave me an advantage when I reached university. Perhaps he will stumble across this post and remember our antics on Apple II+ computers back then.

Give me your thoughts

What do you think? Does learning to code at an early age give kids an advantage later in life?

Photo is Creative Commons Licensed, courtesy of Deryck Hodge

2 thoughts on “Yes I think kids should code.

  1. Absolutely, I started coding Logo (yes, the one with the turtle) when I was 10 years old and it was a big advantage

    • Thanks Arturo, I remember writing a Logo ‘program’ to display the Rolling Stones logo on all the AppleII+ computers in the lab. We also did some early digitizing of sound and I remember getting the intro to “When Doves Cry” playing over the speakers on all the labs in the computer simultaneously on a timer while we were in session just outside the lab. Fun times (thanks Carl).

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