STEAM Education and the Modern Alphabet: Teaching Kids To Code
The backbone for all flavors of technology, coding is fast becoming one of the most important future job skills. And while still somewhat a specialist field dependent on school resources and STEAM program specifics, STEAM education is increasingly inclusive of learn to code activities.
The language of computers is a key driver for the rapidly evolving digital age.With so many of us relying on technology, apps and gadgets, much of what we do in our daily lives is reliant on millions of lines of codes and simultaneously running computer programs working in the background.
Learning how to code was once considered to be a specialty reserved only for those who really want to excel with computers, but nowadays many STEAM educators are pushing for coding to be included as a fundamental skill, which they consider almost as important as learning the ABC’s. And it’s less about wanting every student to master coding, and more about at least giving young learners the opportunity to try coding, and discover for themselves if it’s a skill they enjoy and want to develop. And for those kids who do feel inspired early, learning to code in primary school certainly establishes an exciting learning pathway for mastery through high school and beyond. Graduates with knowledge in coding are highly in demand, with a significant current gap in global talent to fill the increasing number of job opportunities, as the 4IR sees a boom is technology focused jobs, and especially coding.
Teaching kids how to code has become a quickly growing trend, with the many popular tech companies spearheading various initiatives like MIT’s Scratch 3.0 with help from Google, and Code.org backed by Facebook and Microsoft.Schools are being encouraged to introduce coding for kids earlier, and there’s been a plethora of startups focused on coding as an extracurricular activity including Tynker.com, FreeCodeCamp.org, GirlsWhoCode.com and others. There’s also a growing library of “learn to code” tutorials and courses on the internet, from YouTube to Codecademy.com. And although there is no definitive age to start learning to code, many educators believe learning to code is not that much different from learning a language, with many benefits to learning outcomes by starting young.
Games for Teaching Kids to Code
Thinking about including programming for kids as part of your STEAM curriculum? Wondering how to make programming a fun and engaging experience for learners?Games that’s how! Kids love to play games, and creating video games, character animations and other multimedia content using coding is a fun and creative way to teach kids to code.
While some games focus on specific programming languages, others focus on improving logic, the vital skill in which all programming languages revolve around. Lightbotis one such example and teaches students about sequences and how they are performed in a coding environment. It provides students with simple and replayable lessons about loops, procedures, conditions and more without using a single line of code and is perfect for young learners.
Swift Playgrounds, developed by Apple, is a sandbox type coding game that lets students make their own basic platforming game. Players are given a character to use as a model and some basic lines of codes to make the model move around. With it’s easy to understand tutorials, it’s a great game for understanding the Swift programming language, teaching students the basics of developing their own app for iOS.
Learning to code in collaboration with others is another powerful strategy that’s been shown to enhance learning outcomes as kids work together to design, problem solve and code projects. Team CodeCombat developed the CodeCombat game with these principals and the classroom dynamic in mind. Providing tools to both teachers and students, this game guides students through coding lessons starting from the most basic level, including teaching them about critical syntax and programming structure in a teamwork setting.
These are just a few examples, there are many more games, including a many good free options, helping to increase accessibility and make learning how to code easier than ever before. Other notable options are Kodu Lab and our own title Planeteers.
The Next Big Innovation
Like any skill, mastering programming requires practice. But it’s a fun and creative field of study that allows learners to create, tinker and reiterate until they succeed in accomplishing what they have imagined – and kids have wild imaginations. Some of the most amazing apps were developed right at home, many by entrepreneurial teens. Its these stories that inspire many other young minds to explore and create, and to seek out what may be the next big innovation… all powered by the magic of code.
If you are an educator or parent interested in teaching kids to code, or seeking to introduce coding as part of your STEAM Education curriculum checkout some of the links in this article, and why not consider signing up for Planeteers Beta too.