What Are Children Learning When They Learn to Code?
Technological innovation fundamentally transforms education, and schools are constantly looking to update their courses to close the skills gap. Computational thinking skills give learners problem-solving and prepare them for the ever-rising integration of a hybrid human- and machine-powered workforce.
According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report, 50 percent of all employees will need to reskill by 2025 as the adoption of technology increases. The top five core soft skills or ‘power skills’ of the 21st century include creativity, flexibility, complex problem solving, critical thinking, and collaboration. Combining these skills will enhance each skill independently, and one activity demands all of them to succeed: coding.
Coding requires breaking down an objective into components to deliver a logical set of instructions to the computer. As critical thinkers, coders: Identify the task, recognize patterns, develop solutions and test them. It’s a process that supports any field, whether children are trying new sentence structures in language class or techniques in art. But when you synthesize that code with someone else’s, that’s when flexibility and collaborative skills come in.
The 5 Power Skills That Coding Teaches Children
- Complex problem solving
- Critical thinking
Kids are at the most powerful time for exploration and imagination at the age of five. Teaching them coding at this age is not (necessarily) to create a coder but to give them the foundations and confidence to reach their goals with creativity and resilience, independently and as a team. It’s a ubiquitous language, just as crucial as math, that teaches children how to communicate with each other and successfully interact with machines.
Let’s delve into the skills kids learn when taught to code and discover how coding provides the foundation for future positions.
Computers Are a Digital Canvas for Coders
The number one skill that will enable children to prepare for the changing needs of the future job market is creativity. As Einstein once said, ‘creativity is intelligence having fun’; it’s how one’s brain processes information and creates new thoughts and ideas. Creativity is how children and adults look for solutions, reflect on their methods, and develop new insights.
Take game designing with Scratch. Classes of kids ages six to 11 get comfortable grabbing different blocks and changing their movement speed and color with code. At our coding school, each class starts with physically lifting blocks in a numbered set of moves or replacing them with alternatives. They learn to engage their instruction-response abilities actively and translate rules to the program by making associations with physical actions, and the role reversal is empowering.
Once students can deliver basic instructions, various options become available to them. It takes patience and drive to change the colors with code and move objects to the desired layout — and motivation is born when our under-11s use their imagination and creativity to design the outcome themselves. We have seen magnificent still and motion digital ‘block art’ in just a few coding classes. Like art, they’re translating physical movements to a digital canvas. The difference: They are also learning a technical language too.
Trial and Error Builds Resilience
Games and creating products are brilliant engagement tools — the visual success of the end product is rewarding and exciting. However, an essential lesson to learn as early as possible is that with every mistake comes new knowledge — and children in primary grades are not afraid of taking risks.
Once the children understand equations and problem solving, they are ready for the next stage. A famous online game kids love to play is Roblox. Providing a coding platform that enables them to use blocks and math to change the course of a game that interests them means they can create new challenges within the level safely, make mistakes, try again, and ultimately learn the power of perseverance.
The six to 14-year-olds in our Roblox program are motivated to create cool, unique challenges and obstacles for their peers to play with, and, in the process of trialing and building new code, students learn that by going back to the drawing board, the outcome can improve. Their game challenges become more advanced, and so do their self-reliance and critical thinking. By tapping into young children’s natural and fearless inclinations to explore and play with code, they inherit resilient, problem-solving skills that they can incorporate into all aspects of life.
Collaboration Is Everything
In today’s corporate environment, you will often find your coded products will require integration with another code or corporations’ software somewhere down the line. For this, the ability to collaborate is critical. It is no longer an option to skip the development of teamwork skills in computer class if you want your children to understand how people and technologies work together.
Our school provided a task to create a space rocket ship game and divided the tasks between a class of three seven-year-olds. One kid designed the rocket ship, one developed the asteroids to avoid and stars to collect, and another worked on the game’s background. Halfway through the class, we asked them to see how their code could work with their friends’ code and when they realized that code A didn’t match code B, we noticed they started sitting closer together, asking which code their partner was going to use. Their intuition to collaborate with their peers before starting blew us away.
Another class of ours for older students aged 11 was how the US and China emit CO2. Monday’s new students gathered the data and coded a perfect pie chart. Our Thursday group designed two virtual cars with the graph span displayed in the exhaust smoke. We were amazed at their creativity, collaboration, and transference of skills learned when building digital cars the week before.
The room for imagination is endless, and by working on these projects together, the students can learn from each other, and the power skills gained prepare them for future work in teams.
Teachers and kids can apply this strategy to other elements of life. Children can find an artistic flair in coding, and the programming language goes hand in hand with math. But, what isn’t evident to the non-coder is its method for teaching empathy for a new culture; the way a traditional foreign language provides accessibility, self-reliance, and critical awareness, coding does the same. They can even gauge visual understanding and interest in real-world issues and topics while they’re at it.
Coding is more than a bunch of kids glued to a screen; it’s a method to open their brains and discover their creative, resilient, and collaborative skills to be ready for the real world.