Coding: A New Lesson For a New Era

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March 8, 2016

It started this summer when I took my son to a robot birthday party at a specialty store. They had this poster on the wall:


Two thoughts occurred to me back to back. The first, “He’s probably right. The language of computers will be become as important as our spoken languages.” The second, “Shoot. I don’t know anything about coding and I don’t think my kids do either.”

It could be that many people came to this same realization over the summer. Or, more likely, I paid more attention to the topic. But whatever the reason, I started to hear about “coding” a lot more frequently.

The Smart Girls website posted this video about a competition for girls that focused on solving problems in the community with coded apps. It sounded so exciting!

A friend, with familiar feelings of cluelessness, wrote on Facebook, “[My son] explaining computer coding to me, cue the blank stare and glazed eyes.” Her son works with something called Unity C#

My own son started talking about a coding game they got to play in their free time at school. My daughter knew what he was talking about. That’s when I knew it was really happening.

So what exactly is coding?

Coding, for those of us who still don’t entirely understand, is essentially speaking the language of a computer. It is also referred to as programming. Different aspects of technology have different coding languages. You’d probably recognize the name of a few of the languages used online like HTML and JavaScript. There are also languages for computer graphics, games, and software.

Why is it important?

We’ve all watched computers and cell phones become a part of every piece of life. It’s hard to imagine a job that doesn’t require at least a simple technological tool like a website or app. Most industries involve a lot of computer work. An ability to speak to those computers and tell it exactly what it needs to do, makes a person highly valuable in the job market as well as efficient in whatever work the take on.

The Internet first became a reality in 1991. In less than thirty years, it has become essential to our everyday lives. Imagine what our kids will need to do within the next thirty years. Giving them an early start will smooth their road later on.

How do I get started?

Since I’m just getting started on learning myself, I can’t give you personal reviews of methods. However, in my research, Khan Academy and Treehouse both were mentioned frequently as a good resource for adults and kids alike.

You can find also a variety of recommendations and resources for kids online. My son and his teacher suggest Code.org’s Hour of Code, which allows the learner to use characters like Star Wars’ BB8, Anna and Elsa, and Angry Birds to break down actions of a game.

If you were hoping to stay away from electronic options, there’s even an “old fashion” way of learning. The most backed board game in Kickstarter history was Robot Turtle, that teaches the basics of coding for very young kids.

Learning something new can be intimidating but it’s important to remember that all things can feel that way when you start. Watch this video, “What Most Schools Don’t Teach,” with a collection of movers and shakers in the technological world. It will inspire you. My favorite quote is from a woman named Bronwen at Valve. She tells us, “You don’t have to be a genius to code. Do you have to be a genius to read?”

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