Can kids code, really?

Updated: Jan 3

If you are like me, you are probably pretty surprised that kids can code. Coding takes patience and kids are not known for their ability to sit down and think about a problem until they can figure out a solution for themselves. But computer programming simply isn’t what it was when we were young, so indulge me a little while I briefly outline what coding is to Generation Z.

I remember trying to learn about programming when I was young. I found some books in the library that dryly explained what arrays were in a way that was so abstract and theoretical that I quickly believed that it would be impossible. But times have changed and these days there are platforms that introduce kids to the concepts of programming while they are doing fun tasks.

MIT in the US invented Scratch. In fact, Scratch is used at Harvard to introduce the concepts of programming to first year college students in Computer Science. It is a way to get the students thinking about how computers read the list of instructions that is a program without getting bogged down in debugging. And no student, especially the kids in my classes, wants to spend vast amounts of time looking for the error, which is usually a missing full stop or a capital letter in the wrong place. You see, Scratch is a drag and drop programming language. This means that the kids are not typing their programs out, they are dragging chunks of programming language and putting them together to make original games and animations. It is easy and fun for kids to make games that look awesome.

Once kids turn 10, or they have completed two years of Scratch, they are ready for Roblox. Again, I have to dispel some myths here. To most parents, Roblox is just a time-wasting game that the kids spend too much time on. To me, Roblox is a brilliant platform for kids to create great things. Roblox is a platform made of user-created content. Think YouTube but with games instead of videos. Kids can use this platform to create games and then earn Robux (an in-game currency) as other kids play them. Roblox is a big step up from Scratch as it is text-based programming rather than drag-and-drop so the kids need to be more aware of their input, but on Roblox they will quickly learn the concepts of Object Oriented Programming (OOP) in a way that makes sense because they are using it.

Finally, when kids become teens, they are well-equipped with computational thinking skills and ready to move on to an industry-standard game machine. Unity is the software that games like Among Us, Hollow Knight, Angry Birds and Subnautica were made on. And original games made on Unity have the potential to be uploaded to the Play Store to be sold for profit.

So you can see that modern game-making platforms have been designed to hide the complexities of computer programming and make the process of learning to code more accessible for kids. If kids follow the right path through these platforms as they develop, learning to code can be a very natural learning process. Keep in mind that kids learn very complex things such as languages because they are driven to communicate and in an environment where the learning process is natural so and I believe that running a kids’ coding school is all about building that environment.

If you are interested in seeing this environment for yourself, or seeing what your kids are capable of, bring them in for a free trial lesson at Future Coders, Palmerston North.
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