What is coding and how does it relate to computer programming?
Coding is the language humans use to communicate with technological machines and programs.
With codes, we can program modern devices such as computers, tablets, smartphones, televisions, and cars.
We also use codes to develop, program, update and/or change webpages, software, video games, 3D animation, and even search engines, etc..
Codes tell technological devices and programs how to display and store information, and how to react to user commands.
Why are some educators & parents unsure about teaching coding to kids?
When educators or parents develop an interest in teaching coding to children, there can be some uncertainty about when and how to begin.
Some wonder whether coding concepts will be too challenging or confusing for children to grasp.
Others question whether teaching coding is necessary, particularly in the elementary grades.
Some teachers and parents find recommendations online for the best programming languages for kids, and still hesitate to teach coding.
This can be due to their own insecurities about their ability to understand and teach coding concepts.
However, when you dive in and begin learning and teaching the concepts, you naturally become more comfortable over time. Insecurities slowly fade and get replaced with a newfound understanding of computer programming.
Here are four great reasons to include coding instruction in kids’ education.
1. Learning to code will likely benefit a child’s future.
As a child becomes comfortable with one coding language, they are more likely to branch out to learn other forms of coding. Their knowledge and skills in the technology field will naturally progress as they learn to program computers, software, webpages, games, etc.
These skills will be useful for our children growing up in a rapidly-advancing, technological world.
Computer programming experts say we can start teaching coding to children as early as kindergarten.
See eight coding languages you can teach your child or student at the bottom of this article.
2. Students can improve focus and confidence as they learn to code.
Once a child understands the basics of coding, they can start to focus on projects for longer periods of time.
They can chain steps together to create a final result. This can increase their confidence as they feel successful in completing a project they created with their new programming language.
Programming can be particularly engaging. This is because students can explore their creativity while tying their interests to their assignments. They can bring their personal visions to life.
A student’s focus and mood naturally improve, when they become engaged in what they are doing.
3. Most students will learn how to use the coding language you teach them.
When you decide which coding language you will be teaching, pace the learning process (move slowly when needed). Keep the directions and examples simple and concrete, as much as possible.
Teach coding in small steps.
If your child or student is easily frustrated or confused by coding, break tasks down into small manageable steps
Only move forward to the next step, once the child has mastered the one before it.
Include previously learned concepts, as you integrate new ones. Go over any information again that your student may need a refresher on.
Make sure the programming language you choose is not outdated.
A Google search can tell you which programming languages are outdated. Those are the ones to steer clear of in your teaching. Here is a list of some outdated computer programming languages.
If coding appears frustrating or overwhelming, robotics maybe be an appropriate introduction for students who require a more concrete approach to the basics of programming.
4. You can choose from one of several modern programming languages to help your student(s) create their vision.
If you’re wondering which coding language to use, you can pick one suited to what the student may need or use in the future (e.g., during college, in a career, etc.)
You can also ask them what their technology and career goals, visions, or dreams are to help determine the best coding language to start with.
For instance, your student may like to learn how to create games, make their own 3D animated characters, create websites, design a search engine, etc.
Knowing what they want to do allows you to tie your coding assignments to their personal interests. Students are more motivated to complete a task when they find it practical and relatable.
Below I share eight coding languages that we can use to introduce children to the world of computer programming.
C languages are general-purpose languages. C is still in use today and is the basis for many other programming languages.
Popular operating systems like Windows and Linux for PCs (Personal Computers) use C coding.
C allows systems to store and compartmentalize data.
C++ is an extension of C. It supports all of Cs features and more. C++ is a coding language used for a variety of general purposes.
Examples of C++ programming include:
- search engine and web browser development
- game and app development
- software engineering (e.g., development of Microsoft Office)
- data storage and organization
We use HTML (HyperText Markup Language) code to structure a web page and its content.
As an example, we can structure content within a set of paragraphs, a list of bulleted points, or by using images and data tables.
With HTML tags you can set a word(s) or image to link to another location. You can italicize words or make them bold, change the font size or color, etc.
CSS, which stands for Cascading Style Sheets, is a coding language generally used alongside HTML. HTML generally defines the structure and basic visual representation. CSS allows for more visual customization to websites.
For instance, CSS allows us to adjust fonts, colors, margins, lines, height, width, backgrounds, images, positions and other visual aspects of a webpage. CSS allows us to use a high level of detail to tailor how the HTML will display to the viewer.
C# is well-known for its success in programming websites and web applications, Windows® applications, and games.
PHP is considered a simple language, yet it comes with a list of features that can enhance websites and web applications.
Examples of what PHP coding can do:
- solving math problems
- displaying current dates & times
- collecting information about a website’s visitors
- tracking the loading time of a page
- creating/modifying images
- creating online shopping carts
- creating online payment options
WordPress and PHP
WordPress is a content management system (CMS). A CMS helps users create, manage, and modify content on a website without needing to write code.
The coding language for WordPress is PHP. Knowing PHP and understanding how to build a site in WordPress, will give your child an advantage as they will be able to make changes or additions to websites, through PHP, giving them an edge among WordPress uses.
Perhaps your child wants to create 3D animation in a program like Blender. Knowing C++ can help with these functions. Python Scripting and OpenAL 3D can assist your child with their animation project as well.
8) Python Scripting
Python, a widely used programming language around the world, assists with many functions. Examples include:
gathering viewer data in order to make personalized web recommendations for users
programming software that controls self-driving cars
Python is a general-purpose coding language. Programmers use Python for data collection, software and web development, automated processes, and more.
Additional information about computer programming for children:
Google and the Massachussetts Institute of Technology (MIT) worked together to simplify computer programming for young children and beginners, through a program called Scratch.
Scratch uses a block-building system to let users design and program projects such as animated stories and games.Check out this video about students using Scratch in the classroom
Should Education for Kids Include Coding Lessons for Computer Programming? I think it’s safe to say that the short answer is “Yes!”
Education and Behavior – Keeping Adults on the Same Page for Kids
Rachel Wise is the author and founder of Education and Behavior. Rachel created Education and Behavior in 2014 for adults to have an easy way to access research-based information to support children in the areas of learning, behavior, and social-emotional development. As a survivor of abuse, neglect, and bullying, Rachel slipped through the cracks of her school and community. Education and Behavior hopes to play a role in preventing that from happening to other children. Rachel is also the author of Building Confidence and Improving Behavior in Children: A Guide for Parents and Teachers.
“Children do best when there is consistency within and across settings (i.e., home, school, community). Education and Behavior allows us to maintain that consistency.”