Monday, June 16, 2014

Teaching My Kids Programming

Image: ScratchJr Kickstarter Page
I'm a programmer and I have been since I was 7. My Mom had heard about home computers and when she saw the Vic-20 was a reasonable price she bought one for me for my birthday or Christmas. I was elated!

I had no idea what level of effort it would take to use that thing. It came with no games and pretty much the only app on it was Commodore BASIC 2.0 which was the OS which you then wrote your own programs in. I found out a little later you could get a tape drive, games and apps but on my allowance those were few and far between. So I wrote my games from books.

So, when I look at it, the way I got into programming was a little like this:
 * I was given a computer
 * With a manual and no apps
 * I picked up some programming magazines and books that included BASIC programs
 * I coded the games in to play the games
 * I learned as I went, learning to debug, learning to read code, learning to understand code

Now, I don't think that everyone needs to know how to code. But I do think that our children and their children should start to learn it. To me, programming will be as much a core skill as Reading, Math, Science, or any other skill taught in school.

With that in mind here are some things I am doing with my kids to cover the gap that schools have not caught up to:

 * Teaching them to code with
 * Giving them a similar experience to my childhood coding with Kano Computer.
 * Teaching them programming logic, control structures and concepts with the upcoming Code Monkey Island board game.
 * Explaining to them what Dad does and how software is built by being involved with school presentations where parents come in to explain what they do to the class.
 * Backing projects that support childhood education of Computer Science like ScratchJr.

I am not the only one that thinks that Programming is a core skill. Look here:
 * The UK is adding programming as a course in schools next year (2015).
 * Coding for Kids: Schoolchildren learn computer programming
 * Chicago Public Schools Adding Computer Science to Core Curriculum

Coding for many of us that do it is fun and rewarding. How will kids know that they may like it without being exposed to it?

What are you doing to help the next generation learn to code?

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