Programming: A 21st Century Creative Medium

Last Updated: September 22, 2016 3:43 pm
Programming: A 21st Century Creative Medium

Programming: A 21st Century Creative Medium

In many discussions, art is contrasted with technology and science. We say that kids are “artsy” or “techy,” that people are “left-brain thinkers” (logical or analytical) or “right-brain thinkers” (creative and artistic). Many worry that schools, from elementary schools to universities, are sacrificing their arts programs in favor of a greater emphasis on STEM—whereas others feel this shift is not happening quickly enough in order to meet the demands of a changing economy.

In 1968, Donald Knuth published the first volume of what would become one of the defining texts of Computer Science. He called this book The Art of Computer Programming. Knuth says the title was deliberate. He argues that programming is an art as well as a science because it requires both left-brain thinking to work out the logic of the program, as well as right-brain thinking to devise creative solutions and produce elegant designs.

Programming is an Artistic Tool

Regardless of whether you think programming is an art in and of itself, it’s clear that programming is being used to add to art with motion and interactivity, especially by kids. As they learn valuable STEM skills, they can make incredible storytelling projects, beautiful animations, programmatic drawing, and captivating games. Many young artists see programming in the same way they see painting, drawing, or sculpting: a tool they can use to bring to life what’s in their imagination.


Programmatic drawing is just one way that kids can bring their ideas to life with code.

Emily, the mother of 4th grader and avid Tynkerer Julian, says she loves seeing what her son has been able to create with programming: “It’s the language of creativity. [My children] actually don’t have a lot of screen time, and the only time we allow them to have screen time is if they’re doing something creative. They’re very driven to not just watch things, but do something creative.” Julian used Tynker to program an incredibly detailed game called “The Flying Penguin Game,” for which he created all his own visuals by taking photographs and editing them using Tynker’s image editing software. The game starts with a compelling backstory of why the penguin is lost and how he needs your help to get back home.

The flying penguin gameplay

Kids can use their own drawings and photos to make games.

Julie is the mother of Kira, who is in 7th grade and loves animals, coding, and art. Julie says she’s known Kira was a talented artist since she was three, but learning to code has given her even more ways to express herself artistically. For Julie, it’s clear that Kira being left-brain and right-brain is not a contradiction; they’re just two sides of the same coin, and they allow her to create beautiful animations and stories: “It’s her thing. She’s artsy, she’s techy, she’s just talented.”

Kira - dragon SMALL
Kira - Bird SMALL

Coding allows kids to combine just a couple of drawings to tell animated stories.

Phil is also the parent of an artist, his 12-year-old daughter Abby. Abby, who wants to work on special effects for movies when she grows up, has made some amazing interactive projects that combine incredibly intricate artwork with programming logic, like her “Anime Face Maker” project. For Abby, coding is a natural extension of her artwork. Phil says the most exciting part of Abby learning to code is seeing her “bring her art to life in new ways through coding.”

Anime Face Maker

Kids can make their drawings interactive, so the user can customize the art.

Even if you don’t see programming as an art, today’s kids are undoubtedly using it to create unbelievable artistic projects, making it a perfect way to get STEM-inclined kids interested in art as well as to get art-inclined kids engaged in STEM. If your child loves science, they’ll love how programming allows them to use their technical skills in creative ways, and if your child is an artist, they’ll love the open-endedness of coding.

All of these games and projects were created by kids using the free Tynker app for iPad tablets. Tynker’s fun, game-based programming courses teach kids how to code in an engaging way that allows them to express themselves creatively as they build apps, design games, and create animations. Our programming curriculum allows kids to learn to code at home or at school.

About Tynker

Tynker enables children to learn computer programming in a fun and imaginative way. More than 60 million kids worldwide have started learning to code using Tynker.