The benefits of learning to code are outlined here by Firetech Camp. Firetech Camp provide self-guided coding courses.       

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Guest post 

by Firetech Camp

Coding can be started at a young age and provides many benefits outlined below, including improving resilience and problem solving.

Why should children learn how to code?

One of the many outcomes from 2020 is the extent to which our lives – personal, social, professional – are increasingly shaped by technology. Zoom calls bring us closer together; apps connect us to the goods and services we need; and, amidst economic fallout from the pandemic, jobs in technology are second only to those in healthcare in their growth since the summer.

It has never been more important for young people to develop the tech skills they need to succeed at school and in future careers. Coding is often described as one of the most important skills of the future, and that children should learn from an early age to increase their chance of success. 

Bill Gates once said, “coding is not difficult ”. 

While this is easy for the founder of Microsoft to claim, there has never been a better time to learn – and there are plenty of entry routes for beginners. So, what are the benefits of children learning to code?

boy learning how to code
Learning to code can start at a young age.

Coding teaches you how to think

Coding is part of the discipline of Computer Science which itself is defined by the term ‘Computational Thinking’. In his seminal book Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas, Seymour Papert – the renowned mathematician, computer scientist and educator – wrote that computational thinking is a ‘mode of thought’. Papert claimed coding can help to transform the way “intelligence is developed” as it is “step-by-step, literal, mechanical” and a very useful analytical skill.

All of us already think ‘computationally’ when we take any problem and formulate it into something that can be solved. Computational thinking can be applied to juggling a family’s schedule, so everyone gets where they need to go and on time! Know that one well?

Before writing any code, computational thinking requires a decomposing of the ‘problem’, recognising the patterns within it and applying abstraction. Young people become better problem solvers by learning to be analytical, to break down complex activity into bite-sized chunks, and to be precise. Coding is an execution of computational thinking.

Coding encourages problem solving

Too often, we give children answers to remember, rather than problems to solve.” – Roger Lewin, Observing the Brain Through a Cat’s Eyes, 1974.

Understanding computers and learning the basics of coding helps children to develop an appreciation of how things work, and a logical approach to problem solving.

When writing code, there is rarely an answer to remember. Instead, learning to code involves developing a thorough understanding of subjects through curiosity, investigation, and experimentation. Much like the way that programmers ‘debug’ code to find errors, humans can learn complex things through breaking them down into simpler, smaller tasks.

Coding promotes creative thinking

Coding offers children a medium to express their creativity and design something that is entirely their own, that is directly relevant to the world they inhabit. Coding languages like Scratch make it easier than ever to learn how coding works; and, as it is easy for children to pick up, confidence comes easily.

While exploring with code, young people have the chance to put their skills into practice by working on their own projects – whether it is designing a video game, creating a world in virtual reality, or designing a computer vision algorithm using AI! Across the world this year, we have seen young people design AI models that try to detect COVID-19 patients, created virtual worlds to discover extinct wildlife, and built their own YouTube cooking channels to inspire others. It is extraordinary what young people can create with code!

Girl learning coding
Coding is cool!

Coding builds soft skills like resilience

Trial and error is fundamental to coding: a programmer writes code, runs the code, and debugs the errors. As such, this process helps children become used to failure and iterative improvement as a means of learning, which in itself helps them develop resilience.

Papert discusses how traditional educational settings often discourage this skill of ‘debugging’ how something works by focusing on whether an answer is either ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. He believes that, when faced with a ‘bug’, the right question for students to ask is ‘How can we fix it?’ – thus promotes the value of discovery and inquisitiveness.

This problem-solving approach helps them learn how to think critically and bounce back from failure.

Coding gives young people a thrill

I am interested in why young people undertake some activities obsessively in some cases, and reluctantly in others. Children may spend hours on their favourite hobbies – mastering a video game, improving their technique at tennis, or learning to play a musical instrument. However, we rarely see this level of obsession with schoolwork.

Young boy enjoying coding
Learning coding provides a thrill and builds resilience.

So, what is at play here? The first difference is motivation: with hobbies, motivation is often intrinsic (self-generated) rather than extrinsic (imposed by, for example, your classroom teacher). Intrinsic motivation flourishes through a combination of: conscious choice; reward systems to develop self-esteem, that set goals, share feedback and recognise progress; personalisation, where students focus attention on the subjects they’re most interested in; scaffolded problem-solving, where challenges are broken down into achievable stages; and real-world application, to help contextualise how what they learn is relevant to their lives. Each of these elements help to foster students’ curiosity.

Likewise, each is a characteristic of learning how to code.

Coding gives young people access to the adult world

A chief goal of school-age education is to help prepare a child for adulthood. The need to learn does not end with school; rather, education is an ongoing, lifelong process. Adults learn in a very different way to school. Adult learning typically occurs as and when a challenge presents itself – ‘how do I solve a problem at work?’ ‘How can I fix something at home?’ ‘How can I develop my mindset to deal with daily pressures?’ – and most through self-study, rather than relying on a teacher.

Find the right course for you

Fire Tech’s self-guided courses are available on all your favourite topics, from artificial intelligence and Python, to video game design and augmented and virtual reality.

For a short time only, get £25 off any Fire Tech courses over £100 with the code BH25. Build your own video game, brush up on your Python coding skills, perfect your digital photography skills, and dive deep into artificial intelligence. To find out more about Fire Tech’s self-guided courses, visit their website here or call their team on 020 8038 7862.

Note that Bright Heart Education is not affiliated with Fire Tech, but allowed Fire Tech to guest publish this blog as we agree that coding is a great skill for children to learn.

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