A twenty-year-old interview featuring Steve Jobs surfaced shortly after he passed away, and it featured a notable line — one that is as true today as it was years ago: “Everyone should learn how to program a computer, because it teaches you how to think.”
The recent call for computer science to be included in elementary and secondary curriculums has backed up this sentiment. Many attribute that need to the rise of available jobs in technology, pointing to the high salaries that programmers at companies like Facebook and Google command. Others subscribe to an if-you-can't-beat-them-join-them approach — because software is already such an integral part of daily life, being uneducated in terms of computer language in the future will be just as challenging as it is being illiterate today.
Those reasons, as valid as they are, are still up for debate. Some may argue that not everyone wants or is wired to have a job in programming; others insist that even if the world is getting more and more technologically advanced, it isn't necessary to know how to code to be able to live in it. But the oneidea that many agree on is the power of computational thinking.
Computational thinking is the core foundation of coding — it's how software engineers think. Coding, simply put, involves instructing a computer how to perform a set of tasks. But instead of giving the computer one big command, the instruction is broken down into smaller, simpler tasks. This is exactly what computational thinking promotes: breaking down complex tasks into more manageable steps.
It's a practice and a way of thinking that will serve anyone well, software engineer or not. It promotes logic, experimentation, and creativity — skills that can enable you to solve problems in any field. It's no wonder, then, that parents are eager to get their kids accustomed to this new discipline as soon as possible. And how? Through fun, of course!
Think & Learn Code-a-Pillar
Fisher-Price believes that it's never too early for preschoolers to be 'exposed to the foundational skills of coding, like thinking skills, problem solving, and sequencing.' The Code-a-Pillar's body is composed of segments that can be rearranged, and whatever sequence the parts are put in dictates the way it will roll around the room. It's simple, yes, but it's an introduction to the world of action and directional commands.
This toy comes with a videogame that isn't much different from any other on the market, but the crucial difference lies in the way the game is played. Instead of using a joystick to control your character, you arrange small plastic tiles on a cloud-shaped (get it?) board to trigger specific actions. Some tiles determine the motion or direction of your character (jump, move to the right or left), while others are modifiers that tweak the actions, and the rest are multipliers that allow you to repeat an action a number of times.
Hour of Code
Hour of Code is a series of one-hour tutorials that teach the basics of computer science and coding. It was released in 2013 by Code.org, a non-profit that aims to encourage everyone, especially students, women, and people of color, to learn computer programming. It incorporates games and animations to make learning engaging and fun, and it seems to be working — 228,921,670 people have tried using Hour of Code.
There are many more coding camps and online courses available for kids (and adults alike), a sure sign that the recent interest in technology and keeping up with the times isn't slowing down any time soon. Whether it's to pursue a career in software engineering or not, learning how to code has undeniable benefits that are applicable in any industry or situation.