In recent years, the importance of programming has become a subject of increasing international awareness, moving from the narrow domain of the “geek” to the broader world, including the K-12 education space. Earlier this year, President Obama endorsed mandatory computer programming education in schools. And recently, a viral video from code.org encouraged students to learn to code. For those of us in Silicon Valley, it is especially clear that the ability to code is taking on an unprecedented level of importance.
Programming hasn’t become this popular by accident. There is a growing understanding that knowing how to program is essential, especially for younger generations. Learning facts is less and less relevant in a world where Google can satisfy just about any question in a matter of milliseconds; it is skills that will enable children to succeed, and that set of skills must include programming.
Here are a few reasons why learning programming is important:
1. Programming is a basic literacy in the digital age.
Kids are growing up in a very different world than that of their parents. Cellphones, computers, Youtube, Netflix, and Facebook are embedded in their daily lives. Even toys are digital, and many are programmable, such as Legos and the new-generation LeapFrogs.
It is one thing to know how to use these technologies. It’s another, however, to understand the logic behind them. When learning to program, kids understand and tinker with the digital world they inhabit. Coding draws back the seeming “magic” of technology so they can truly understand the logic and science that controls this technology–a discovery that is all the more magical.
Our reliance on technology will only increase. The students of today must be able to not only passively consume this technology, but also to understand and control it, becoming an active part of this huge digital shift.
2. Programming can change the world.
For the last several centuries, people relied on the written word to spread ideas. The ability to write was the ability to create change. Today, writing is not enough. To change behavior, it is crucial to leverage the digital medium.
Consider the Arab Spring. Social media enabled a revolutionary wave of protests and demonstrations that changed the course of the Middle East. Writing played a crucial role in exposing the injustices taking place in the region, but people also needed a way to organize and protest. An essay, no matter how well-write, couldn’t have brought about this change by itself.
We’re seeing all around us that programming is changing the world.
3. “You have an idea for then next big innovation? Great. Can you bring it to life?”
Everyone has ideas. Only a select few can make them happen. The ability to code separates those who merely have an idea from those who can make their ideas a reality.
If you want your child to be a thinker and innovator who can bring ideas to life, encourage him or her to learn how to program. Programming gives children confidence that they can be designers and builders.
4. Programming doesn’t have to be hard to learn.
In fact, Tynker makes it a straightforward process. One of Tynker’s most important features is that it gives immediate feedback, which is crucial for learning programming. If a child programs an object to move in a certain way and then immediately sees the results she wanted, then she knows she has manipulated the code correctly. This type of instant positive reinforcement is an incredibly powerful educational tool.
Learning how to program is like learning any other language in that the skill must be practiced and tested out. Just as languages open up the ability to communicate with worlds of people, programming gives children the ability to create technologies that impact those around them. With just a computer, kids can use their programming skills to build things that could change the world.
If your kids aren’t learning how to program, now’s the time to start.