What is coding, and why am I hearing everywhere my child needs to know how to code?
You’re not alone if you feel you’re hearing the words coding and STEM everywhere. Schools tout it on their signs – “We’re a STEM school!” Principals talk about it in their newsletters – “We’re coding” and if we’re lucky our kids casually dropped into the dinner time conversation “dad, I made an app today at school.”
That’s all great, but what are the kids doing, and are they really going to be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk?
Coding – another word for computer programming – is simply giving a set of instructions to a computer to make something happen. Back in the 60s, 70s and 80s programming was done by way of punch cards. We’ve come a long way since then, with today’s most popular programming languages readable by humans as well as computers. We have vastly more powerful computers and Olympic swimming pools full of data. We’re entering a new digital age, where our pizza order is taken by a robot, we get live updates on its progress, and pretty soon it will be delivered by a drone.
This is all wonderful, we’re told – but we have a serious problem. As we’ve all heard by now, the jobs of the future are going to look very different to the jobs of today. Not enough of us know how to tell all those computers and drones what to do. If we are not the ones controlling the computers, we are merely consumers of the services being provided. If our children are not taught how to control the computers then they are at risk of being left behind in the coming digital age.
That’s where the push towards coding classes for kids comes in. Our new digital economy needs people who understand technology, and how it can be used as a tool to help humanity – whether in solving issues of poverty and the environment, delivering a hotter pizza or cutting traffic congestion.
Getting kids coding opens up so many learning possibilities – they are learning problem solving skills, how to translate a problem into computational terms, and seeing their world through a digital lens. The goal is not to perfectly learn a particular coding language, which may well fall out of use in ten years - that’s pointless in a fast-moving world. It’s about seeing computers, and technology, as a tool, and learning how to use them. Kids may create games, animations, and quizzes as they learn to code. They’re also learning maths, physics, and how to order their thoughts to move from “the flappy bird moves across the screen dodging pipes” to “A background scrolls right to left, a bird’s y co-ordinate changes with a key stroke, and if the x and y-coordinates of the pipe and the bird are equal then a collision has occurred and the background changes”. When you start thinking about Uber as an exercise in seeking your GPS position, searching for nearby cars, messaging them, plotting the route from them to you, and estimating the arrival time, the connection between a simple game and real world applications starts to fall in to place.
A kid who codes starts to interpret their world in a new way, and that’s a great first step towards succeeding in the digital age that is their future.
Looking for a coding class in Sydney? Jump across to our bookings page to find out when and where you can get your kid coding.