The Code Generation

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‘ Learning how to program is the new Literacy,’ says Marina Bers from Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts.

An article by Niall Firth in the New Scientist 6.9.14, shows how children are using programming and coding skills as part of the new curriculum in the UK. Underlying this new introduction to the curriculum is something much more fundamental to learning, which is, creative intelligence.

Intelligence is fundamental to learning and learning is fundamental to to developing intelligence. A question that is asked by educationalists when trying to foresee into the future for the new generation is how will the learning of today be meaningful to future lives.

What are children doing, how are they learning and what will they need in the future?
In today’s world and looking to the future as much as we can, the answers we suggest are…

Q. What are children doing?

A. They are using technology daily, from an early age they are using devices to control and to manipulate.

Q. What are they learning about?

A. They are learning about the world in literacy, mathematics, science and the other areas of the curriculum.

Q. What will they need in the future?
A. They will need to use a variety of devices to operate, to learn, find out knowledge, explore, be creative and on a merely functional level to be able to exist in a modern technological world.

To enable even the basic methods of existence in a modern world, they will need to operate a number of on line programmes, banking, communication, record keeping and the list is exponential as time moves on.

Children and technology are developing at a pace. If adults are not presently engaged in coding and programming, children are and will be even more in the future.

It will be as important as being able to read, it will be the new literacy. Reading is also in its basic form a method of decoding symbols which leads to interpreting and developing meaning.

There is some evidence that learning to code can boost the ability for abstract thinking and problem solving’ Niall Firth, New Scientist 6.9.14

And that is similar to writing stories, to write music, to create algorithms, to design using geometry, to learn a new language, to decipher writing in non alphabet style scripts, such as Mandarin, Hebrew and Arabic.

Programming and coding, until recently, have been the domain of those most gifted, and rightly so, but now children and young people can lead us all into this largely unknown territory.

In 2012, Code Club was launched by programmers Clare Sutcliffe and Linda Sandvik as an after school activity. It now has 2,200 groups across the UK with volunteers teaching 36,000 children.

In 2014, Microsoft, Google and the Royal Academy of Engineering are working with the DFE on a method to teach school children, how to build software and it’s use, create simple algorithims and to understand the principles of coding. How amazing is that!

‘A major constraint on growth is the shortage of qualified graduates with the depth of knowledge you have from playing around with computers for years. Ebon Upton, Creator of Raspberry Pi.

There are toys available today for coding and these include. Primo, Hello Ruby and Robot Turtles. Other games, such as board games and puzzle books are using graphical programming language.

A programme called Scratch, was set up 10 years ago by Michael Resnick, director of Life Long Learning group at the Massachusett’s IT Media Lab. Resnik believes that children will thrive through learning coding in a world dominated by expanding digital platforms.

‘ Kids shouldn’t be just the recipients of what others are creating.’ Michael Resnick

Scratch is a programme language that is easy and fun for children to use, they can create simple programs by making blocks of instructions to the required sequence and then ‘run’ the code with one click.

The well known programme Minefield uses complicated methods with symbols and structures for the creation of individual worlds.

There are many examples of programmes, downloads, Apps and games which use and establish young people in to a whole new world of learning.

Children are learning some of the following;

Coding – sequencing, planning ahead and making something work in a certain order.

Loops- Snippets of code that repeat steps f actions.

Parallelism – when sequences of instructions can run at the same time

Debugging – running back through faulty code

Abstraction – constructing in layers, so what we see is just the tip of the iceberg

Algorithims – procedures for solving many interfaces of the same problem

We could also look into computational thinking and beyond.

Learning and intelligence using skills that children will indeed use in the future.

A whole brave new world indeed!

Sue Martin – SmithMartin Partnership LLP