Around the world there are business leaders, politicians and academics talking about the importance of coding education. However, these individuals often fail to explain why it's so important that children acquire this basic skill and what it will mean for their futures.
So let’s start with “Why”
Simply put, coding is the infrastructure of our future civilization and it is at the core of all other digital skills. By learning to code we are gaining an understanding of how the world around us works. From artificial intelligence to social media, e-commerce to streaming video – you are interacting with a world built using code. Our lives are and will continue to be overwhelmingly influenced by the digital revolution. You all use mobile phones, but how many of you understand how these phones work? Whether you love it or hate it, in order to innovate in the world around us we must first understand the building blocks of what makes these technologies possible.
Sit, Crawl, Walk. Read, Write, Code.
While it might appear otherwise, no one is trying to turn all students into career programmers and computer engineers. In fact, now more than ever we must encourage kids to pursue their dreams of becoming artists, teachers, architects, scientists, actors, etc. However, we must also recognize that coding and digital proficiency are now of the same importance as language literacy. We view reading and writing as skills fundamental to our survival. We must now recognize coding as the newest skill on the list of what we consider “critical.” Even when what we today consider the most innovative methods of coding become outdated, digital fluency will remain a core skill that children must master. And like any language, the earlier you start learning, the better off you are.
China Gets It, and is Moving Quickly
China is by far the most digital country on Earth and is accelerating faster than the rest of the world when it comes to digital innovation and technology adoption. As the country mainstreams coding education and transitions into a global leader in the digital revolution, China is ensuring that its future leaders have the skills needed to fuel the country’s progress and maintain its global economic power. So, for those of you who are wondering – learning Mandarin is not a bad idea, but learning coding is by far more important.
Now that you have a better understanding about the importance of coding and digital fluency, you might be wondering where to start. Here are a few recommendations that will enable you cultivate your child's digital skills .
1. Let your kids play (certain) video games. The same way you’d encourage your child’s literacy skills through reading books, playing video games is a natural way to let your child develop his or her digital skills. That said, you must choose the video games that your child can play and set limits when necessary (for example, playing Minecraft in "creative mode" rather than "survival mode"). Rather than making all video games off-limits, take the time to learn which games can cultivate digital fluency.
2. Introduce your kids to social media safety. Not surprisingly, your kids might already know more about social media platforms than you do. However, what they probably DON’T know is how to apply safety rules of the physical world to their interactions in the digital world. Rather than trying to block your children from various platforms, understand that social media will play a role in their lives and they must learn how to use such platforms safely.
3. Learn to "get out of the way" – Despite their best efforts. parents and teachers can become barriers for kids trying to advance their understanding of the digital world around them. Children now experience life and technology as one and on the same and find this interaction completely natural. That’s why some kids might be ready for the digital equivalent of a complex novel while their parents are still busy learning their digital ABC’s. In recognizing this disparity, we can both educate ourselves as adults and learn how to “get out of the way” when are kids’ digital capabilities surpass our own.
4. Make coding and digital education a part of your lives. To truly master the skill of coding it must become a part of your everyday lives. This will require more than a week of coding at summer camp or a new toy designed to teach coding to your young kids. To reach true digital fluency, your child must commit to learning how to code and continue learning until they’ve mastered this skill.
The bottom line? We must approach our children’s education with eyes wide open and a willingness to adapt. New realities mean the cultivation of new critical survival skills. We owe it to our kids to make sure they can embark on a future full of possibilities.