Let's Teach Kids to Code

Published: Monday, Feb 11, 2013


Two weeks after I published the post below, a whole bunch of people way smarter and cooler than me came out promoting the same message.

First, Congress voted to update its Congressional Art Competition to include a new nationwide Congressional Academic Competition focused on science, technology, engineering and math.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said,

“By challenging students to explore the importance of computer science in their everyday lives, we hope that this competition will help empower them to use their creativity to code for a more prosperous and innovative community.

Then a whole cadre of geeks including Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates helped launch a national nonprofit to encourage young programmers, Code.org

Original Post

I recently watched a TED video by Mitch Resnick who leads the Lifelong Kindergarten group at MIT Media Lab. In the video, embedded below, he argues that we should be teaching kids to code as the same time that we teach them long division. As someone who learned programming at an early age, this video resonated with me for two reasons. Mainly, because I totally agree with it. But secondly, because I didn’t realize we weren’t teaching programming in schools! After all, Estonia is teaching programming to all of its first graders.

When kids first enter primary school, they spend their time doing creative things like drawing, painting, building, and experimenting. But after those first years, the creativity stops. Dr. Resnick is working to change that. He and his team have developed new ways to help older students engage with technology in order to encourage them to create and experiment the way they did in kindergarten.

As Resnick says:

Young people today have lots of experience … interacting with new technologies, but a lot less so of creating [or] expressing themselves with new technologies. It's almost as if they can read but not write ... it's useful to think about this analogy with language. When you become fluent with reading and writing, it's not something that you're doing just to become a professional writer. Very few people become professional writers. But it's useful for everybody to learn how to read and write. Again, the same thing with coding. Most people won't grow up to become professional computer scientists or programmers, but those skills of thinking creatively, reasoning systematically, working collaboratively - skills you develop when you code - are things that people can use no matter what they're doing in their work lives.

Why is that important? Because the failure to teach programming is impeding kids’ understanding of the digital world and also crippling our nation’s competitiveness in business. We outsource programming not so much because we can’t afford American programmers, but because we can’t find enough good American programmers.

Watch this video, then get involved to help your kids’ schools teach programming.