Part I: It’s not all about coding
Coding is one of those subjects that often sparks fear and intimidation in anyone that hasn’t been doing it from a young age. Code itself can look like a crazy language from another planet, and people naturally feel frustrated (even panicked!) when code crashes but they have zero clue how it happened or how to fix it. This uncertainty is felt by many of us entering into the digital workforce today, where the relevant skillsets are broad and constantly evolving. So how do we empower kids to overcome that initial fear, and instil them with the knowledge and skills that will make them digital whizzes?
“So, you said on your CV you had a lot of experience with computers.”
“Yes I have a lot of experience with the computer thing, you know, sending emails, receiving emails, deleting emails… I can go on.”
- The IT Crowd (Season 1, Episode 1)
At the very least, we can take a leaf from the show ‘The IT Crowd’ for what we don’t want our kids to say in their future job interviews. But we can and we must do more. At Kidovation, we believe that inspiring kids to learn tangible skills through hands-on experiences will give them the confidence to do more than just send, receive and delete emails. There are fantastic career opportunities in our increasingly digitalised workplace and workforce: you can be a product owner, a UX designer, a developer, a brand strategist, a digital marketing expert, the list goes on. The question of where to start, however, can be answered with one word: coding.
For too long, coding as a skill has been misrepresented (thanks to late-90s films such as The Matrix). People might say you have to be good at maths or have a deep knowledge of technology to be good at coding, or that you’ll only use coding if you do STEM subjects or want to become a geeky hacker. Those misrepresentations have resulted in a narrow (and often gender-biased) perception of coding and coders. These perceptions can be harmful and can become a psychological barrier for kids to explore coding as a skill. In addition, these perceptions limit understanding around the diverse applications of coding, and the transferrable skills associated with learning to code.
To tackle this head on, our Kidovation team has incorporated coding as part of our core curriculum. Every one of our coding sessions has three goals:
To break down psychological barrier for kids and make coding seem more approachable
To expand kids’ horizons and understanding of our digital world
To demonstrate to teachers and parents that learning to code gives kids many transferrable skills that make them ready for the future digital workforce
In this series, we’re going to introduce the six transferrable skills kids can learn through Kidovation’s coding modules. Each part of the series will also include a reflection activity and a stretch activity for your kids or siblings (and you!) to discuss and work through at a suitable pace.
Understanding ‘programming’ and ‘automation’ (and coding as a way to achieve it)
Programming is really very simple, but what does it actually mean?
Programming is telling a machine to do a series of things in a specific sequence, at a specific time, so that it can achieve a specific outcome.
Programming allows us to assign repetitive (and sometimes boring) tasks to a machine. This saves us time and energy so we can focus on other more important tasks. Programming may sound difficult, but chances are you are already an expert. In fact, you are already programming every single day. Not possible, you may think!
Well, every time you do the following activities, you are, in essence, programming:
Setting a daily alarm on your mobile phone to make sure you’re up in time for school or work is programming
Setting up a coffee machine to make two cups of filter coffee every morning is programming
Making sure your TV records your favourite show so that you can watch it when you get home is programming
Now, programmers, we can all feel a bit less intimidated knowing that learning to code is not a big leap forward from setting up an alarm clock. Coding is just an advanced form of programming. Instead of pressing buttons, we write up some lines of code, which gives us more freedom to be creative.
Why don’t we apply what we discussed above through a couple of simple activities?
Look around you, find something that you think is a good example of programming, and think about how it makes your life a little bit easier.
Did you know that lots of coders write “pseudo code” before they write actual code on their computer?
Pseudo code is a false code written in plain English (or any language of your choice!). It represents the flow of your programme.
It is not something a computer can understand, but it helps you check your thinking, and plan out all the steps clearly. It can also help other people (who might not know how to code) understand what you want to achieve.
Can you write some pseudo code for the alarm clock programme earlier?
REPEAT for 365 days
IF (today is Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday or Friday)
Rings alarm at 7:00am
IF (today is Saturday or Sunday)
Rings alarm at 8:30am
Coding isn’t as hard as you thought, right? Now that we’ve those coding cogs turning, we hope you’ll join us in next week’s instalment of the Kidovation Coding Series. We’ll be looking at how coding allows you to express creativity, so stay tuned Programmers!
- Dr. Christine Yu & Lexi Hayden