Over the last few years, you might have asked yourself at least once, “What’s with all the hype about getting kids into coding?”
I hear you!
But first, let me say it’s not just hype.
But even before that, let's define some things.
Coding for Kids Definition
Coding for kids refers to the collection of opportunities available for children to get involved in coding. While it might be difficult to imagine a young mind learning something so seemingly complex, it's definitely an attainable reality thanks to the proliferation of the many coding summer camps, programs, websites, and toys that make learning to code fun and digestible.
On the most basic level, coding is how we communicate with computers, and what we use to build and run websites, apps, video games, and more. Learning to code is like learning how to speak and write in a particular language; a computer’s language.
There are a lot of acronyms and esoteric terms in the world of coding: HTML, CSS, Java, Ruby, etc. It can be overwhelming, but we will get there when we get there. Choosing the best coding language for your child is the next big step. For now, let’s look at why students should code.
Why Kids Should Learn to Code
Years ago when all of this kids and code chatter started, you could have characterized it has hype because the whole idea was new and novel to the education system. And, while this “learn to code” popularity spike wasn’t unfounded by any means, time was really the only thing that could tell us if it all was going to be a big fat flash in the pan.
Well, here we are.
Time has passed, yet we are still seeing STEM education stats like by 2018, 2.4 million STEM jobs will go unfilled. And others like 71% of all new jobs in STEM are in computing, but only 8% of STEM graduates are in Computer Science.
We’ve officially moved beyond simply saying “coding is cool, so go do it,” end of story. Instead, we are now saying, “coding is in fact cool, so go do it, but you should also go do it because you’ll be rewarded as a result.”
In other words, there are jobs, lots of them—and jobs that pay very well.
What makes this even better is that it’s not just the jobs or the coolness, either (this would be a much shorter blog post if that were the case). But also the creativity, problem solving, collaboration, communication, and other skills ripe for improvement as byproducts of kids learning to code.
So, let’s go!
- Programmers are in high demand
- Learning to code leads to a competitive advantage
- Programming knowledge helps kids better understand the world around them
- Coding is fun and satisfying
- Coding improves creativity
- Coding improves problem solving
- Coding instills persistence
- Coding improves collaboration
- Coding improves communication
1. Programmers are in high demand.
As mentioned, according to Code.org, 71% of all new STEM jobs are in computing, yet only 8% of STEM graduates are in Computer Science. That’s a SERIOUS shortage of CS majors.
Learning to code will increase your child’s odds of securing a lucrative STEM career, especially in a world where computing jobs are growing at over twice the national average.
Coding has quickly become a vital skill, and Code.org also points out that CS majors can earn 40% more than the college average.
2. Coding provides a competitive advantage when applying to colleges, internships, and jobs.
If you possess a hot skill that many of your peers lack–such as the ability to code–you instantly appear more desirable in the eyes of potential college admissions officers and employers. Plain and simple.
3. With programming knowledge, students better understand the world around them.
Most of us don’t know the first thing about what makes our smartphones, laptops, social media networks, and video games run. Basic programming knowledge can change the way we interact with the technologies we use (and take for granted) daily, and can open our eyes to the infinite possibilities of coding.
4. Programming is fun and satisfying.
While programming is logic-based, it’s also an extremely creative activity. If you know how to code, you can develop the aforementioned apps, video games, websites, and more!
For many developers, part of the appeal of coding is the challenge and reward of seeing their code come to life after a good debugging session. Don’t be fooled, however–with the right instruction, getting started with programming can be easy and fun.
5. Coding improves creativity.
When you learn a language, you use it to express yourself. The same is true with code. Coding empowers kids to not only consume digital media and technology, but to create it. Instead of simply playing a video game or using an app, they can imagine making their own video game, or envision what their own website, or app might look like—and they’ll have the outlet for expression.
6. Coding improves problem solving.
When kids code, they take complex problems and break them down into smaller parts.
Kids learn what it’s like to approach a problem the way a software engineer does, with logical, computational thinking.
As Dan Crow, CTO of SongKick explains, “Computational thinking teaches you how to tackle large problems by breaking them down into a sequence of smaller, more manageable problems.”
This logical thinking is a powerful tool in school, work, and life.
7. Coding improves persistence.
Learning to code, like any new discipline, is a challenge. Thus, tackling complex problems—and making mistakes along the way—can be very frustrating.
Coding teaches the valuable skill of persistence in the face of such challenges. Learning how to problem solve and look for solutions through research and collaboration builds this highly desirable skill.
8. Coding improves collaboration.
Anyone can learn how to code—kids can learn alongside others of every race, gender, or background. Kids meet and learn how to collaborate with all kinds of peers, all joined by a common interest in technology.
Classrooms and other in-person environments, like iD Tech, bring kids together for face-to-face collaboration. Kids learning online can also grow, asking each other questions, and working to solve problems and create things together.
Many games, like Minecraft, also offer a bevy of educational benefits because they too involve coding, collaboration, and participation—with peers all over the world.
9. Coding improves communication.
Communication is an absolutely essential skill throughout school, work, and life. People who can clearly communicate complex ideas in simple terms tend to be successful in different industries and walks of life.
When kids learn how to code, they learn how to communicate with the most simple-minded audience imaginable: computers. As mentioned, coding teaches kids how to break down complex ideas and arrange them in a way that computers can understand.
But with all of that, proceed with caution…
OK, I'm not going to turn around now and say you shouldn't learn to code, obviously, but more of...
Why just code?
It’s natural for such a simple question and the following related questions to crop up as you break down whether or not coding is right for your child:
What if my child doesn’t want to learn to code, specifically? Does that make them a failure?
Will they not have the chance to secure a cool internship down the road? A worthwhile job?
What if they want to learn to just “tech” instead? Is that a viable option?
What if they want to learn X? Or Y? Or Z? Will those things count in the future?
Likewise, if they only learned to code, and nothing else, would that take them to the top?
So, let me wrap up by saying me or whomever else urging you to “learn to code” is probably not doing so with the intent of the statement to be so exclusive.
I mean, you would never be encouraged to read, but not write. Or to learn your multiplication tables while throwing division out the window. Facebook was created by a programmer, but what would it be without design?
So, by all means, if you have a kid with a coding interest, then yes, help them to LEARN. TO. CODE. If they don’t have an interest, still consider it, though. It’s that important, and you’ll be glad you at least gave it a chance.
But in the process, don’t forget about the other things. Help them learn to “tech,” and explore game development possibilities, 3D printing, or video production if that's what better suits them. Immerse in photography if that's truly what they want to do as a hobby or even a future career.
Have them get skilled in marketing, negotiation, promotion, and more… or learn how to become a leader. There is a list of learning opportunities, and that list goes on and on. Coding can take you far, but you must also possess the complementary skills to make your creations thrive.
One of the most amazing things you’ll ever hear is that Steve Jobs didn’t code for Apple. Ever.
Can you believe that? If I asked you whether or not Steve Jobs was successful, you’d turn around and ask me if the sky was blue or if grass was green.
Jobs was one of the most successful people to roam the earth… not because he was a supreme coder, but because he knew enough to communicate a vision, and was wildly skilled elsewhere.
In the end, kids and teens who want to capitalize on the abundance of computer science jobs in tomorrow’s landscape should be taking programming courses today.
iD Tech students arrive in the summer eager to learn—not only because of their interests in technology, but because many of them still aren’t receiving valuable instruction in subjects like coding with their everyday schooling. They leave camp with new skills, deeper knowledge, and the confidence to go out and do something impactful with what they’ve learned. We’ve seen this happen summer after summer.
Best of luck!