Coding – it’s like sport for the brain!
Perceptions of coding can vary widely and sometimes, parent’s just aren’t sure what it means to “learn to code”. Put very simply, coding is giving something a set of instructions to carry out a task. Code is behind all of the applications we use today, all websites, including Facebook and Instagram are created using code, your car is coded to beep when it reverses, your phone is coded to find Siri when you press a certain button, most animated movies and electronic music use code. When children learn to code, it opens up a world of creativity, they have so much fun, they forget they are even learning! The main tool we use to introduce coding is Scratch, where children can program interactive stories, games, and animations — and share their creations with others in the online community. We use robots and handheld devices, some made from Lego kits to teach children the link between designing, building and coding. Coding games are another great resource where children have to complete a challenge through a series of levels, using code to progress. As children get older, we start to introduce coding and 3D modelling though games such as Roblox. All of these activities help your children to learn the skills needed for the careers of the future, many of which do not even exist yet! Most important for parents to know is that coding is for everyone, girls and boys equally enjoy this fun and educational activity which helps them to excel in other mainstream subjects such as creative writing, art and maths!
Here are some of the benefits of learning how to code, we will look at 3 Cs and 3 Ps.
We often find children who join our classes can be shy to start, which is perfectly natural in a new environment, even for us adults. Introverts tend to naturally gravitate to subjects such as art and technology and when coding classes combine both, we notice the child building in confidence in themselves every week. We usually suggest children present their work at the end of lessons and it is so rewarding to see children take pride in their creations and blossom as they progress. For some children, especially those with additional educational needs or those who do not enjoy team sports, coding is an alternative hobby where they can work in individual projects but also in a “team” and have creations they are proud of and can share.
A mindset that is important in all stages of life, critical thinking is the ability to look at a problem from many different angels and analyse more than one solution, taking other opinions into account. We love watching children figure out problems in this way and helping each other decide the best course of action to take to “fix the code” or make a robot go faster.
It comes as a surprise to parents that coding classes help foster creativity but the two topics come hand in hand. Children design characters and backgrounds from scratch when designing games, they write scripts when making animations, they build structures from their imaginations with the Lego robotic kits. Music and sound also features in these tasks, something children really enjoy when working on their projects.
It is fascinating to watch children work to solve a problem to get to an end goal. Coding teaches them to look at problems in a new way, they break problems down to smaller parts, test different solutions, accept failures and mistakes and keep trying until they get to the end result. Collaboration really comes into play, children are always more than willing to help each other solve a problem and explain the solution.
It is always so satisfying to see that AHA moment when it all clicks with a student, usually after a couple of lessons. If they don’t understand at first, they might first be frustrated, but when they solve one problem, they realise they are able to solve the bigger ones, that they need to test every option and they will get there in the end!
Finding patterns is a large part of figuring out how to code more efficiently and something which helps children improve processing skills. We use a lot of handheld gadgets such as the BBC Microbit and the Brainpad to code lights, sounds and sensors, these can help with motor skills.
Be a creator rather than a consumer during screen time
A lot of parents feel insecure about their children using technology at a young age but really, we have to look at how they are using technology. If they are drawing, completing puzzles, learning new words, is that really such a bad thing? If you are aware of the many free and low cost educational apps available to children, this will help you to make screen time educational as well as fun! A simple google search will help you to find something to suit your child. The same applies to gaming as they get a little older, games like Minecraft improve children’s spatial awareness and logical thinking and Roblox helps them with design skills, budgeting, and digital civility and with most online games now, children can play with their friends, an added bonus during the winter or during illness/pandemic restrictions. As with everything in life a healthy balance is all that is needed, take media hype with a pinch of salt and after that, isn’t it up to each individual family to decide what works for them? The two most popular apps for learning to code are Scratch Junior for ages 5-7 and Scratch which is available here.
How can my child learn to code?
Although coding and ICT skills are not yet on the primary school curriculum in Irish primary schools, it is being discussed and has been introduced to the senior cycle already so we expect to see the topic filter down through the years until even our junior infants will get an introduction to the wonderful world of technology. Schools sometimes have the hardware but do not have the expertise to teach the digital skills to their students. Some professional training is available in Scratch and Lego robotics but we still need a more joined up approach in schools. If your child is interested in technology, you can find courses online or there are after school clubs popping up around the country. Corrib Kids Coding offers both options for ages 8-14 and can be contacted on their Facebook page.