Did You Learn to Code?I have seen my first computers when I was about 5 – my Mom was one of the first graduates in Electronics Engineering in my native city of Minsk, capital of Belarus. She worked in one of the State Computing facilities and maintained mainframes. They were huge and took big rooms. When first personal computers arrived to my school, they were an incredible rarity and a gift to our school from our Japanese twin city. the year was 1986, and I was a senior in high school. The first program I wrote in Basic made me change my career plans from chemistry to computer science. I graduated with a degree in System Engineering from Minsk Radioengineering University and my whole adult career was spent in high tech even though I shifted over years from coding to QA to product management to program management.
My husband (we are exactly same age, but he grew up in Western Germany) bought his own “DIY Atari” when he was a teenager. Programming was always his passion. He is one of those geeks who programs for fun, but he is also a professional software developer who is paid well for his skills. So, in essence, learning to code continues to put food on our table and roof over our heads.
When Is a Good Time to Start?Programming (or coding) changed so much since our youth. I remember struggling to comprehend certain concepts of computer programming even in high school, and I was a very capable student. Nowadays kids can start programming much earlier with more visual approaches to computer languages. My husband was very enthusiastic about teaching our daughter to program, and we tried to get her into coding first time last spring when she was 7 and a half.
Are Girls and Boys Different When It Comes to Learning to Code?I don’t want to generalize, but so far I am yet to see a girl of Smarty’s age genuinely interested in programming. Boys are completely different matter! One of Smarty’s classmates is spending all his free time reading Java programming books and writing his own programs. My good friend’s son who is a year older than Smarty was into programming for several years, his preferred environment is Scratch, and he and his best friend write games together and already plan to start their own software game company. Perhaps not incidentally, both boys have extremely geeky fathers who are very supportive of their boys’ interest and spend a lot of time with them.
Don’t get me wrong - I am not saying that girls cannot grow into terrific software engineers, but there is something in learning to code that seems to call to boys earlier than to girls. Perhaps the situation will change soon with some beginner tutorials specifically targeting girls, such as this Code With Anna and Elsa tutorial designed for kids age 8+.
How to Get Started?
There are many paths that you can take into the world of coding. Start small! Give your children an hour of code. Check out tutorials and coding apps that might work for children as young as 4. Let them experiment and follow their interest. I will be honest and say that it is certainly helpful to be able to code yourself if you are trying to encourage your child to try it out. But perhaps coding is a new skill that you and your child can learn together. I, for once, am excited to try some of the tutorials designed for age 8+ (not for middle school like Khan Academy) and see if Smarty’s interest in programming takes off again. I am looking forward to our Hour of Code this weekend :)
Your TurnDo you know how to code? What computer languages did you learn?
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