In the past, third-graders may have struggled with multiplication tables and division, but today’s new generation of elementary school kids could soon be bringing home Java script and HTML worksheets.
The startup Tynker Learning Platform, which launched last week, is planning to teach children to code as early as age 5. Tynker is the brainchild of co-founder and CEO Krishna Vedati, who has a Masters in computer science and has been a programmer with other tech startups in the past. He has two kids in elementary school and told VentureBeat that he believes schools are behind the times. “Their schools haven’t changed in 50 years,” he said. “They’re teaching the same stuff in different ways.”
The interface is free to use, and comes with lesson plans for teachers and interactive tutorials for students. Kids can build their own cartoons, mobile games, and virtual robots. The beta version of the platform has been tested at more than 40 schools in Silicon Valley, and has received over $3 million in seed funding from investors.
But is elementary school too young to be learning about computer science? “Programming is one of the most valued skills in the 21st century,” the Tynker team wrote in a blog post. “No age is too early to learn programming.” Vedati says that the program teaches kids more about the logic of coding than the specifics – they learn how loops work, for example, or how to order and structure tasks for a computer. The interface is also visually engaging and has kids build characters and figure out how to make them move and talk.
Similar startups like Code.org, Treehouse and Codecademy have also come onto the scene recently to bring more programming education to schools, but have largely focused on older kids. Code.org’s moto is that “every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn to code.”
Vedati believes coding skills can help kids’ future earning power, but it’s not just about becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg. “The new jobs that will be created won’t be just programming jobs,” he tells VentureBeat. “Kids will have computing everywhere. Doctors will be using computing to make decisions. Information and computation is coming to every field.”