It was 1 p.m. on the 7th of October Monday, and I was about to finish activities with her. T’s father approaches me. He wants to know if he should allow her eight-year-old to use us (Whitehatjr) on her own and how often. I smile at him. I have heard this question for the first time.
I ask him, “Will you allow her to read a book?
Will you allow her to write a story?
How many of them?
He replies: “It depends. It depends on what book and it depends when she wants to write. I will not let her write a story while we are having a family dinner, and I certainly do not let her read some grown-up books I have at home. They can be scary for her!”
In order to answer my question, this man carefully considered the context. Similar logic applies to the use of technology: it depends.
Then I explained to him “Coding is a playground. It offers many opportunities for learning and personal growth, exploration and creativity, mastery of new skills, and ways of thinking!”
In my work, I explore the role of coding in early childhood. I draw on the framework of Positive Technological Development to understand the developmental milestones and playful learning experiences that children can have while developing computational thinking and exploring powerful ideas from computer science.
“Coding is literacy. As such, it invites new ways of thinking and carries the ability to develop cognitive skills”
IMPORTANCE OF CODING IN EARLY CHILDHOOD
Early childhood is an important time for young children to grow, play, and explore the world they live in. Developmentally, it is a life stage characterized by genuine curiosity and desire for learning. Children want to learn about the natural world and the artificial world, the world of emotions and the world of ideas.
In order for young children to master new knowledge, they need hands-on experiences to construct their learning the framework of coding as playground provides a way to understand the kind of developmentally appropriate experiences that programming environments promote imagination and cognitive challenges.
In the coding playground, young children create their own projects to communicate ideas and express who they are.
They explore powerful ideas from computer science and engineering, they engage in problem solving and storytelling; they develop sequencing skills and algorithmic thinking which leads to cognitive learning.
They also learn how to manage frustration and find a solution, rather than giving up when things get challenging. They develop strategies for debugging their projects. They learn to collaborate with others, and they grow proud of their hard work.
They can be themselves and playfully explore new concepts and ideas, as well as develop new skills. They can fail and start all over again.
“In this process of learning, they will improve their cognitive skill immensely”
CODING SHAPES YOUR CHILD’S MENTAL MODELS AND PROGRAMMING HELPS STRENGTHEN THEIR BRAIN HEALTH
People often say that the brain is like a muscle and that you need to exercise it if you want to stay sharp. Is that actually true? And if so, does programming count as mental exercise, enough that it impacts brain health? Growing up in a digital world, coding for kids is just as important as it is for them to learn to read and learn math. Coding activities can set down the foundation for helping kids start to think like a computer programmer.
Coding for kids is generally best to introduce through fun hands-on games and activities that make kids think like a computer programmer. So, activities that promote logical thinking, and have a problem to solve are a perfect choice. Telling stories is a great way to help kids develop coding skills. Break up the story into pieces, perhaps by picture, mix them up and have the kids put the story in the right order.
Kids will have to study each piece and think logically in order to work out which piece of the story goes first and put each piece in the correct order to be able to read the story from start to finish. This teaches the important skills of sequencing, which is a vital part of understanding how to code. With coding knowledge, students better understand the world around them.
AS A PARENT WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR ME?
Learning to code is critically important in this process. As a parent, I plan to encourage my child to learn to code and continue to evolve and expand his skills as long as possible and encourage him not to give in to any moments of discouragement. I want him to push beyond his limits as often as he can and reap the corresponding benefits.
It is our responsibility to introduce children to coding and computational thinking when they are young.
“My biggest inspiration in everything I do is my son. He is fascinated with science and technology and can’t help himself from constantly asking “how does this work?” about almost everything around him.”
AS AN EDUCATOR’S ROLE
As teachers, we need technologies and curriculum specifically designed for young children that take into consideration their cognitive, social, and emotional needs. Learning through play and “by doing” is critical — it is entertaining and educational. Coding education should be tailored to a student’s abilities and educational level as well.
As teachers all over the world begin to incorporate coding and computational thinking in early childhood education, may we have the clarity to understand how these can be integrated into pre-existing early childhood educational practices?
AS RESEARCHER’S ROLE
As researchers, we need to explore the developmental stages of learning to code and the learning trajectories associated with computational thinking. We must understand what is truly happening when a six-year-old program her robot to dance the ‘SHAPE OF YOU’ AND ‘THUNDER THUNDER’, and an eight-year-old makes an animation.
AS PARENT’S ROLE
The message that children should be spending more time in front of a screen learning to code puts parents in an awkward position in some ways. Most parents are of the belief that ‘screen time’ should be rationed and that outdoor and active pursuits should be encouraged more, for the sake of a healthy lifestyle balance.
Coding is great for developing skills and qualities in certain areas. Firstly, it helps children to grow in confidence. Secondly, it helps them to think logically. Finally, it promotes creative thinking too. You need to persevere to correct code, but when the final goal is reached the sense of achievement is great.
It also calls on creative and imaginative skills, as well as strategic thinking. It also involves creating projects (great for imagination) which develops cognitive skill.
Of course, not all children will become software developers or engineers in the future.
“However, even if they never code again in later life, learning to code when so young will prove to be invaluable “
STORY TO SHARE TO PROVE IT RIGHT
He got excited when I informed him that we are going to design a celestial calculator app.
His mother interrupted “Maam! Vivaan doesn’t know how to division or multiplication!” “Will take care!” I said.
I asked him” How much is your weight?”
“24kgs”, he replied. I explained to him step by step that how I was going to divide 24/6 to calculate his weight on the moon.
Then he asked, “Maam! How much is your weight?”
“70kgs, it is embarrassing but it’s a bitter truth!”I replied. Both of them started laughing and rolling on the bed!”
He started calculating and for his mother’s surprise, he did it and showed me the correct answer. His mother was truly grateful and said: “He has improved his thinking ability, thanks a lot Maam, It was unbelievable!”
“It will happen only when you make them explore and think deeply”
JUST TO CONFIRM, DOES PROGRAMMING IS REALLY GOING TO IMPROVE YOUR CHILD’S COGNITIVE?
Children are like empty glass; they will become what we pour in them. It all starts with cognitive development. This can happen when you give your child the right exposure. It will make them think out of the box and they will do beyond our imagination. Mold them to make them mentally strong.
“Then why not today? It’s never too late to start or never too early to try”
To all those parents who make smart choices for their children.