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Coding: Essential Skills and Benefits

Tina Floersch 39144 Unsplash

If coding, then successful, else game over!

21st century leaders and trendsetters all agree that coding is an essential life skill. At OjO, we decided to find out more about coding and how it can help young children build a variety of skills.

“Learning to write programs stretches your mind and helps you think better, creates a way of thinking about things that I think is helpful in all domains.”

—Bill Gates
Co-Chairman, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Co-Founder, Microsoft

“Whether you want to uncover the secrets of the universe, or you just want to pursue a career in the 21st century, basic computer programming is an essential skill to learn.”

—Stephen Hawking
Theoretical Physicist, Cosmologist & Author

The UK was the first country in the world to make computer programming a compulsory school subject at all levels in September 2014. According to British curriculum guidelines, from the moment children start school at five years old to when they complete their first public exams at 16, they will be learning coding, from understanding simple algorithms to using programming languages to solve computational problems.

In this section we go back to the roots of coding to explore some of the key ingredients that can make children successful coders. Surprisingly you don’t need to be good at mathematics, however logic and creativity are very useful!

Essential Tools for Coding

1. Boosting memory

A good memory helps children to identify what problem they want to solve, and what steps they need to take (in the right sequence) to achieve a desired outcome.

2. Eye for detail

Having a keen eye that can pick up subtleties, patterns, and even colours is key. Fun games such as Where’s Waldo, word search puzzles and Boggle will help your child start developing an eye for details and patterns from an early age.

3. Creative problem solving

Coding is a creative tool to solve a problem in a unique way. A great way to explore this concept is to read stories of creators and inventors who saw a problem and found a solution where others had only struggled.

4. Visualisation

The ability to think out of the box and visualise how something will work will help young coders find ways to successfully solve problems. To do this have the child think of a program they want to create. Discuss what it will do, how it will do it, and then draw pictures of what the finished program will look like.

5. Critical thinking

Understanding problems and being able to dig down to the root of an issue will help children develop programs that truly meet and fulfill a need.

6. If/Then logical, linear thinking

Computers are very linear in their processing, so as a coder you need to be able to adopt strong analytical and linear thinking. Your mind needs to think like a computer does. If this happens, then this happens, but if this happens, then this happens. There are lots of different ways to build linear thinking skills such as playing chess or Code & Go Robot Mouse (a game designed to teach early programming skills).

An Essential Skill for Life

Armed with a solid foundation, the potential benefits to children of learning to code are tremendous. In fact these benefits reach far beyond the individual child, to potentially equip an entire generation with the skills to not just use the technology, but to make it work for them. We have identified some of the most significant benefits of learning to code here:

1. Critical Thinking

If you can develop this skill in children at a young age then it can have long-term beneficial effects. ‘You can’t just wing it when you’re working on a coding problem. You really have to take the time and energy to look at it and understand it at a different level.’ This mindset can be applied to many other areas of learning.

2. Persistence

Perseverance is a hard thing to teach, but it is nevertheless an important skill to learn. Educators want students to remain resilient when they come across an obstacle, and coding helps them do this.

3. Problem solving skills

When you come across a dead end in coding, there is always a way to backtrack and try again. This ‘try, try again’ mentality can help students to solve problems in unique ways.

4. Courage to try new things

Children can at times get stuck in a rut where they are unwilling to try new things. However you never know what is going to appeal to a child.

5. Mathematical skills

Coding and math go hand in hand. When you encourage children to code, you also helping them practice their mathematics. Best of all, they might not even realize they’re doing math!

6. Meaningful context

There can be a fuzzy period when you’re learning to code—“What does this all mean?” But then when it all starts coming together, it is a beautiful thing. Help your children find that context, and then teach them how to apply it to other areas of study.

7. Processing skills

When you code, it really is like learning a whole new language, which definitely encourages processing skills. It might not be your typical French, Spanish or German class, but this is a universal language. No matter where you go in the world, if you speak code, you’ll be able to communicate, which is pretty cool!

8. Creativity

With code children are able to be creative and innovative, on their own terms. The control is completely in their hands.

9. Overcoming gender barriers!

Men hold most of the jobs in technology, especially when it comes to coding, however coding should not be limited to boys only!

Happy coding!

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