Every day, we've been hearing a lot of buzz about teaching programming to the younger ones. And many schools around the world are also including things like programming, electronics and robotics in their curriculum calling it STEM. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. But what's in it for a layman? What if I'm a parent who is non-techie, how do I know what's STEM and how its useful for my kids or not? Well, lets put some lights on it.
If you're reading this story, means you're using a computer or smartphone. Talking about computers, there were many people who revolutionized the personal computers and software industry. And plenty many people know about Bill Gates and Steve Jobs who created not only great industry product but also amassed a high wealth for themselves. Now, what caused these people to achieve such great heights? for example, if we study about the life of Bill Gates, its clear that he was interested in Coding from a very early Age, and so is it with many icons in the Industry. They started learning computer coding early, it gave them lot of time to absorb the in and outs of the coding and enough time to create great products and businesses around it.
As a parent, What's in it for me?
This was just to clarify what learning computer coding at early age can achieve. But we all don't want to make our kids entrepreneurs isn't it? (or Do we?) It depends on person to person, their choices in life and the choices their kids make in their lives. Any parent today, won't force his choice of career to their child. Its not required at all that every kid should become next Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates. But what coding can to early minds is really fascinating and worth involving our kids into. Kids, specially in their schooling days can absorb any new knowledge very easily.
But in today's schooling practice (especially in India) every kid is like forced to be in some kind of Rat race. Schools and parents alike force them to do many things without even asking if they want to do it or not. And its funny, not every parents will agree on this, but parents want their child to do everything and excel at everything. Its a very common site for me to see a child attending 8am-4pm school then going for a tennis class, 5pm–6pm and then going for some specialised maths class 7pm — 9pm and so on. Parent want their kid to do everything, he/she should be very good in school and academics, should be able to dance well, should be able to play tennis/football/cricket/what not, should be a good singer, should be a good painter. What the hell? Parent want their kid to be everything they ever dreamed of doing, just because they have money to send them to different classes. Is anything going wrong here?
Whats going wrong?
Wrong thing happening is, kids are loosing interest in many things. They're not looking at world with open view and most importantly, the're not asking questions. Its a feedback to me from many reputed school owners and private institutions, that the problem happening is kids are thinking very less. Their parents or teachers are doing all the thinking but the kids are not. If at all we have to gift something to our kids, it should be the capability to think, think wider, think broader, think breaking all the rules. And that is what computer coding makes them to do
A computer program is nothing but a way to instruct the computer to do something. This "something" can be anything from printing your name on screen to playing some sounds and also sending emails to creating games. When someone is doing programming, he's solving some problem, he has to use paper and pencil and think on ways to achieve something. Yes, there is fixed outline in which he has to do this, but it involves 2 of the most important things
Programmer has to dwell on to something to achieve and it mugs his mind to search for answer by doing some things / writing codes. off course we don't want to give such painstaking programming assignment to our kids, but what if that assignment is fun to do. What if it excites them and makes them want to do it more often. So are there any such things available which offers my kids to do such things? are they paid or free :) Lets see
Without a doubt, scratch is the leading software developed for teaching coding to kids and all the younger ones. Developed by MIT Media Lab, Scratch proves to be the best introduction to programming for anyone, for both the parent and the kids alike, read more here. One can do many things with scratch by simply just using the blocks, it does not coding by typing words, instead it uses some pre-available blocks which are to be picked and placed one after another to create a code. There are plenty many things to do from playing your own voice to even creating games which can be done with scratch.
What all is needed to learn App Inventor: A Computer/Laptop, Internet Connection
Who Can learn scratch: Any kid who can read English
Can I teach scratch to my kids myself: Yes, if you can read English :)
App Inventor is an Android App making platform provided by Google and now maintained by MIT USA. This follows the same syntax of putting blocks together as in Scratch. Whats more interesting for both parents and kids in this is they can create real apps for their phones and also download it onto their own phone. Imagine you and your kids made an app for sending sms to your wife by simply giving a single voice command, will it impress a mother and wife? I definitely thing she will. Whats most important is its endless fun to create things which you can run on your phone with your kids. Checkout app inventor here
What all is needed to learn App Inventor: A Computer/Laptop, Android phone and Internet Connection
Who can learn App Inventor : Anyone who can use android phone, and read english
Can I teach App Inventor to my kids: Yes, if you can use android phone, and read english :) :)
code.org, as the name suggests is perhaps the greatest resource site specially made to teach coding to the younger kids. code.org is a non-profit which is backed by many generous donors like Amazon, Facebook, Google, the Infosys Foundation, Microsoft, and many such who have not only contributed money but also their resources also to bring code.org to life. Code.org provides a very nice curriculum which can be followed to teach coding to the kids from age 4 and above very easily. Whats more interesting with code.org is that they gamification of coding with actual games that kids know about. Kids can do coding exercises with angry birds, minecraft, star wars and alike games which they're already attached with. And it brings whole lot of fun for both parents and kids to solve these challenges. Depending upon the age of your child you can start right away with coding with him/her. Check it all here
What all is needed to learn with code.org: A Computer/Laptop, Internet Connection
Who can learn App Inventor : Anyone who can use computer, and read English
Can I teach App Inventor to my kids: Yes, if you can use computer, and read English :) :)
Code club is a non-profit from UK which aims in creating code clubs in schools and communities worldwide to spread the computer programming education among the kids. Its a very nice initiative which is connecting thousands of volunteers across the globe who are arranging code clubs in their schools or community and teach younger ones about coding. If you're an interested parent, you can also start code club in your community / society.
The reason for including code club here, is that they've created very nice short lesson based projectes to teach
HTML and CSS
Hardware like Raspberry Pi and related tools
So if you've chosen to start with scratch, you'll find interesting projects for getting started with scratch here on code club website. These tutorials can act as guide to you as parent as well as to your kids for learning the coding