Why your 8-year-old should be coding | VentureBeat

May 24, 2013 at 1:31 am 4 comments

It’s an interesting idea, that 8 year olds should be coding, but I don’t buy this argument.  Computing will be everywhere, and new jobs will be created that need computing.  But doesn’t it really mean that 8 year olds should be taught job skills?  Will they remember those job skills by the time they hit the job market?  What can we teach an 8 year old in computing that will still be relevant 9 years later?  I do buy the importance of influencing students’ opinions and dreams early on.

Vedati, on the other hand, is planning for the long term by working with kids much younger, much earlier, trying to educate them about those options when they still have years to form opinions and create and live their own dreams.

“If you close your eyes and think about the world 10 years from now, it will be completely different,” Vedati said.

“Kids will have computing everywhere. Doctors will be using computing to make decisions. Jobs will require more technology. … The new jobs that will be created won’t be just programming jobs. But can you think about organizing data? Information and computation is coming to every field.”

And that, dear readers, is why your eight-year-old should be coding.

via Why your 8-year-old should be coding | VentureBeat.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mitchel Resnick  |  May 24, 2013 at 7:02 am

    I think there is too much focus on “job skills”. Everyone agrees that it’s important for 8-year-olds to learn to write, even though most won’t grow up to become professional writers. It’s the same with coding. Most kids won’t grow up to be professional programmers, but learning to code (like learning to write) provides them with new ways of expressing themselves and new ways of thinking. I recently wrote a short essay about these issues: https://www.edsurge.com/n/2013-05-08-learn-to-code-code-to-learn

  • 2. joshg  |  May 24, 2013 at 10:30 am

    The focus on jobs is lame. The reason I want to introduce my kid to coding when he’s 8 (and the reason I introduce all my middle school Digital Media classes to coding) is because it’s part of how the world around them works. Being able to understand and reshape the world around you is powerful, and the digital world is an extension of that.

    Coding is becoming part of real-world math, science, art, history, journalism… the list keeps growing. Talking about “tech jobs” just doesn’t even mean anything anymore.

  • 3. David Wees  |  May 27, 2013 at 1:42 am

    I was going to comment but Mitchel and Josh totally said what I would say, but better.

    I introduce kids to programming for two reasons; it gives kids a chance to think about the world (even the digital world) in a new way, and it is unlikely that their teachers are going to be able to jump in any time soon and over-teach them (ie. they will not only have to think; they’ll probably have to do it independently, or with the support of their peers – no teacher interference.)

  • 4. Mark Miller  |  June 3, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    The comments I see here are pretty well on the ball on the significance of programming in relation to the emerging influence and importance of technology towards a future society. I’d like to play devil’s advocate here for a moment, though, because what we anticipate of the future does not necessarily pan out.

    The idea of programming among the masses first became popular in the late 1970s, with the idea of “programming for computer literacy.” At the beginning of this it was easy to think that everyone would be programming in the future. The early machines seemed to make that necessary. It was difficult to use an early microcomputer without knowing at least a little programming, and the programming environments created a somewhat pleasing “interactive” feel to it all, that felt a little like “writing.” This lasted until about the mid-1980s, when it started to fizzle out. The thinking among many shifted towards practical use, to “get work done,” with canned applications, not authoring, or at best, scripting in an application environment.

    We’ve seen waves where our society has shifted back and forth between the poles of authoring and using. When the web took off in the 1990s, “authoring” meant, in the popular mind, building your own website using HTML, and later CSS, with a little JavaScript thrown in to spice things up. Not much programming–or it became redefined, unjustifiably. Web applications were emerging, but for the most part this sequestered programming to the IT center. The technology explicitly did not welcome the typical computer user into programming. Today, with mobile computing, the realm of programming is even more walled off, where even the IT centers have become proprietary, though it has gateways which allow through “approved apps.” from independent developers. This new environment is not friendly to the sharing of code/computing artifacts, because now they’re seen as dangerous, like potentially toxic waste products.

    Looking back over the last 36 years, it’s become apparent that rather than programming becoming more of a popular activity, as I expected it would be all those years ago, it’s been agreed to, by both customers and technology producers, that it needs to be a specialized activity. I disagree with this notion, but I don’t get to decide these things.

    It seems to me the only thing that will reverse this trend is if popular notions of programming include ideas that are sophisticated, by today’s standards. As an example, there’s what Alan Kay calls “systems science.” Otherwise, the metaphor will only go so deep, and the controls we see encroaching on the platform will still be in place, and like a rope tied to the leg of an elephant, our minds will be conditioned to only go so far with it. The rest will remain a mystery that can only be accepted, lest one try to reject computing as a meaningful activity altogether.

    I agree with Mitch Resnick’s writing metaphor. I think it very much applies. The thing is in order to realize that, we not only need computing environments that make realizing the meaning of what’s written apparent (and his Scratch environment does that), but our society on a widespread basis needs to realize that people can have ideas to write about in this medium, where the ends (thoughts about meaning and implications) have what Jerry King would call an “aesthetic distance” from the means. With the way our society has been operating with computers, since they were first introduced, means and ends are very close together, to the point of almost being indistinguishable. The popular notion since I can remember thinking about it is that the purpose of programming is to make something useful, or fun, or worse, addictive, not to explore or discuss ideas. The sciences are probably the only exception here. Programming is seen as “instructing” the computer to do something to accomplish a utilitarian goal (like the old “recipe” metaphor), not to “express” your own thoughts.

    At the very least, teaching programming can help people understand their technology a little, so they’re not the victims of corporate or public policy, which may shut off avenues that are vital to people, or the occasional pranksters. Our ignorance, and the bad designs of the technology we’ve consumed, has made us as a society much more fearful of accessing what’s powerful about computing than is justified, to a dangerous degree. Perhaps, if nothing else, the renewed effort to bring programming back will help ameliorate that fear. I hope for much more.


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