Digital Agenda for Europe
A Europe 2020 Initiative

How early should we turn kids on to programming? And what role the industry should play?

Discussion

To keep up with the IT demand and growing importance of digital innovation, Europe needs programmers. 

Initiatives like CoderDojo started in early 2011 in Cork by then teen-programmer James Whelton and entrepreneur Bill Liao show that young people can learning how to code in a fun, sociable way. Rewired State since 2009 hosts an annual event Young Rewired State  hosted by Google in their London offices that is intended to introduce open government data to the coding youth of the UK. Another intiative, Future Creators, run by the Digital Hub in Dublin & the National College of Art and Design, provides young people with an environment where they can make new applications and digital content. Those Future Creators will come to the Workshop on Digital Skills and Learning next week and present their applications to the workshop participants so you will have the opportunity to see the project results onsite or online by following our Twitter hashtag #da13skills.

Still, learning how to code is not only an exercise needed to get a job in the computing industry. Mitchel Resnick from MIT Media Lab in his article Learn to Code, Code to Learn shows also that learning to code, prepares children for other subjects so they are also coding to learn - math, computational ideas, solving strategies, designing projects and communicating ideas. So teaching code to children, gives them much wider set of skills!

How early should we start? What works best - free platforms similar to codeacademy, targeted initiatives at schools, events? And what is the role that industry should play?  

 

 

 

 

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Comments

Rosanna Lifonti's picture

Industry role is fundamental since industry shapes skills demand; as a consequence it is absolutely important that industry communicates and makes clear what skills are needed. Nevertheless, we should also bear in mind that young pepople demand for education and training is influenced by their very long time horizon (40+ years), whereas prospective employers' time horizon coincides with average job duration, which has shortened during the last 10-20 years and is now considerably shorter than youth's time horizon. This is the most important challenge the STEM education system is facing: improving employability of young people over 40 years time. To do so "code to learn" is much more relevant than "learn to code" and this is something to start from the childhood. By the way, we should also bear in mind that a population with low employability level brings high social costs, which for sure are higher than costs necessary to reform the education system.

Rosanna Lifonti, IDC Associate Consultant and project manager of the study "Digital Agenda for Europe - Engagement for growth and jobs"

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Katarzyna Szkuta's picture

Today, French Digital Champion, Gilles Babinet published a blog post about the revolution in education, importance of education but most interestingly about the need for teaching children to code. He announces also the launch of a new programming  platform providing free, easy to access and powerful tools for kids to learn how to code. More on the Digital Agenda blog

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Cristina Juesas's picture

Although this post is in spanish, most of the tools are not.

http://unadocenade.com/una-docena-de-herramientas-para-iniciar-a-los-nin...

There already are a lot of software tools for children to learn programming and the key point is the game. Make anything a game and children will learn without noticing!

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Joanna Lindberg's picture

I believe coding is one of the most interesting activities that kids can do online - it is said that as much as up to 25% of young people engage in such activities (EU Kids online studies). Pity industry wasn't around when kids coded in the 80ies - yes it is such an old activity!
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Katarzyna Szkuta's picture

Dmytro Kurylovych • In my opiniion, the best way to teach kids coding - is using games. The game should allow adding/changing rules, enemies, landscape, etc... This should be constructor with ability to specify logical rules. 
The question about age - I feel this should be not early than 10 years old.

 

More information on this thread of discussion here.

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Katarzyna Szkuta's picture

Maryan Savka • Totally agree with Dmytro, because… Because I have started my software development career from old computers (ZX Spectrum) and development of simple games based on Q-Basic and Assembler. I was about 11-12 years old. It was actually very simple games based on letters, pixels and lines, but it was really very interesting and fun. And it gives a really good results!

Dmytro Kurylovych • Thank you, Maryan for your comments. 

Why not early than 10 years - I think from 7-to-10 child should learn basics such reading, writing, so, extensive gaming is not helpfull at this time. 
But, - 15 years ago - the games were much simpler than today. Today games - are very complex systems, cool mix of graphics, interaction, networking, quests,... and the question - how to stimulate interest to such simple games / taks...

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Katarzyna Szkuta's picture

Manus Hanratty • Start as early as possible. Young kids will always surprise you. My two year old grand daughter can easily use an iPhone to select videos then stop one scroll to select another etc When kids have learned to add numbers they can be taught to write a program to add numbers etc..

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Bart Hanssens's picture

Adding some cheap hardware (buzzers, buttons, lights...) in the mix may make it more interesting for youngsters. When I was young, we learned the basics about logic / electronics at the age of 12, and some Turbo Pascal at the age of 14. Most of my fellow students (if given the choice) would rather have continued tinkering with hardware instead of writing elementary programs in Pascal. On a related noted, readers may be interested in Dwengo, a microcontrollers / robotics project. It's a kind of spin-off project of a student group at the Ghent university (Belgium), and while not focusing on children, it's becoming increasingly popular in schools (even across the ocean). http://www.dwengo.org/node/742
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