In the past, computer science and coding were seen as uncreative and uninspiring; a specialist area best left to the experts (and the geeks). This is no longer the case. And nothing demonstrates this better than the recent decision by the Department of Education to make computing compulsory in the UK schools from the age of five.
What does computing cover?
Computing covers not only how computers and computer systems work, but also how they are designed and programmed. It may sound quite complex for small children to learn, but kids come into school with a sophisticated understanding of technology. You will have seen this yourself at home as they use your tablet and phone. It is just this comfort around tech that makes kids (with typical fearlessness) eager to tackle computing concepts and respond positively, especially to the programming/coding element of the syllabus.
Why is computing and coding now compulsory?
Coding is truly one of the most exciting education opportunities of the twenty-first century. The skills it teaches are not just focused on computing but can be applied to all subjects of the national curriculum.
Coding is a creative outlet, which encourages ingenuity and invention. It is both playful and challenging, and teaches kids how to identify problems and solve them. While they also have a chance to construct a 'product' which they can instantly see working. Computing and coding are subjects which helps build confidence and pride. Coding teaches self-reliance and logical reasoning, which are key skills relevant to all areas of education and, most importantly, for your child's future career. As Nicholas Negroponte, the co-founder of MIT Media Lab, said at a recent conference in the US, 'what you know is not as important as knowing how to learn itself, and that's why computer coding is so important.'
Coding and computing also provide kids with a full understanding of modern life. We live in a world in which technology is a filter through which everything is perceived and understood. Kids in schools must be equipped for this as technology continues to develop at an extraordinary pace. Education should reflect the reality of modern life, and the Department of Education's national curriculum changes are a hugely progressive step forward.
Finally, how can you help your kids?
It's easy to support your kids at home and also learn a little about coding yourself. You can do this through free schemes such as Barclay's Code Playground or MIT, which includes parents guides and how to get started. Or with DK's resources including Coding Made Easy, Computer Coding for Kids and also DK's Computer Coding FAQ page which includes links to download Scratch and Python for free.
Computing and coding is all about getting giving it a go. So why not try some coding now with your kids?