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My kids want to code and it makes me nervous!

This morning I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about “why we should learn to code”. I shared it on Facebook and it generated an interesting response from a friend I went to primary school with who is now faced with raising kids who are really into technology and want to learn to code! I think it is fantastic that her kids want to learn this stuff. What I didn’t think about was how scary this might be for a parent who doesn’t know much about this stuff. I am sure my parents had a similar fear when I was that age, 30 years ago, but about mathematics! Keep Calm Here are my opinions on some of the questions raised:

Question.1: Is the education system letting them down?

I don’t think the education system is letting us down but I do think it could do better. We need to think about technology in a holistic way and recognise that we won’t all be Software Developers, but chances are we will all engage with technology throughout our lives and careers. Teachers can provide the tools, but reality is you’re better learning some things yourself and Coding falls into that category.

Question.2: Should we be teaching them ourselves?

Definitely! I see it kind of like reading. A child reads at school only, they won’t develop the skill as fast as someone who reads at home and has parents who read to them. Coding is kind of like reading, combined with a bit of math and critical thinking. The good news is there are a lot of free resources online that make it easy to start learning, all that is needed is time and a little motivation. I’ve included some links below.

Questions.3: I am nervous…is this OK?

YES! You can expect to be asked complicated questions that might as well be in a foreign language. Think back to the days when you had quadratic equations in your homework. How do you think that made your parents feel? It is OK to be nervous, the trick is to have a strategy. Now with math my Dad would say “ask your mother”. In today’s world you might say “take a look on Google” or “have you tried breaking the problem down into smaller parts?” How hard can it be? Learning to code takes time but can also be a lot of fun. Why not learn with your kids at home. Here are a few tips for parents with wannabe geeks!

  • Sign your kids up to Code Academy – everything they need is online.
  • A beginners HTML and (basic) CSS course is a good place to start (age 10+)
  • Take baby steps and repeat. Coding is like learning a language, so repeating the lessons will reinforce the concepts and make it easier to remember the core concepts and syntax.
  • If you have older children then languages like JavaScript and Python are popular in schools and Universities.

My two step-daughters aged 11 and 13 have joined Code Club. They started out learning Scratch and have more recently moved onto Python. This is a great way to get kids excited about coding. It’s great to turn up 10 mins before the end to see the results of the activities and learn a little yourself.

Expectations:

Now just because your child genius is learning to code doesn’t mean they will become the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. Chances are they won’t become a Billionaire but they will never the less have many other fabulous opportunities. Learning to code will give them a skill they can use for the rest of their lives in many careers, not just IT – think engineers, accountants, managers, sales, marketing, education to name a few. Of course there is always the odd exception to that rule.

If you do happen to have a genius then don’t worry about learning to code yourself, teach them business skills!

What are you thoughts on this?

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