What should children learn – coding or turning on the computer?

A vigorous debate starts every time between educators, technology experts and parents start the conversation about when a child should start learning programming. The biggest opponents insist that computers are bad for children, as they turn them into zombies. We think that the biggest problem in this debate is that there is a huge misunderstanding what should be taught: how to turn on and off the computer, Word or Excel or the real computer science, which is intellectually sustaining and life-enhancing for students.

What should be taught to schoolchildren? We think that  first of all  kids need to know about: algorithms (the mathematical recipes that make up programs); cryptography (how confidential information is protected on the net); machine intelligence (how services such as YouTube, NetFlix, Google and Amazon predict your preferences); computational biology (how the genetic code works); search (how we find needles in a billion haystacks); recursion (a method where the solution to a problem depends on solutions to smaller instances of the same problem); and heuristics (experience-based techniques for problem-solving, learning, and discovery).

In the UK schools teach Logo programming,  which provides a good illustration of why teaching kids to write computer programs has to be an integral part of any new computer science curriculum. The reason is that there’s no better way of helping someone to understand ideas such as recursion or algorithms than by getting them to write the code that will implement those concepts.

Why do we need for our kids to know coding?

Our children live in a world that is shaped by physics, chemistry, biology and history, and so we – rightly – want them to understand these things. But their world is also shaped and configured by networked computing and if they don’t have a deeper understanding of this stuff, then they will effectively be intellectually crippled. They will grow up as passive consumers of closed devices and services, leading lives that are increasingly circumscribed by technologies created by elites, working for huge corporations such as Microsoft, Google, Facebook and the like. We will, in effect, be breeding generations of hamsters for the glittering wheels of cages built by Mark Zuckerberg and his kind.

Is that what we want? If not, provide your children with opportunities and register them for upcoming training courses. We have developed a special course for starters ‘Programming Fundamentals’ and ‘Web development.’ Call us at (010) 545 343;  (099) 545 343, (041) 545 343, and we will be happy to help you and select the right course for your child.