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Coding: The language kids can learn faster than Adults

Across the entire world, the conversion of information right into a digital format – also known as “digitalization” – has increased productivity in people and private sectors. Consequently, practically every country on the planet is working towards an electronic digital economy.

As this new economy evolves, special skills like computer programming are needed. That is just like a language of numbers, referred to as code, which allows people to write instructions which can be executed by computers. The target is to make something: from the web site to a graphic, to a piece of software.

Early coding languages emerged in the 1940s. They were basic in what they may do but complex to master and needed an enhanced comprehension of maths. By the 1990s – when universities, businesses , and people started connecting on the internet – computing speed and memory improved to make use of high-level coding languages. These became widely on open source platforms and online tutorials made it to be easy for many to master and continue advancing the languages so they became simpler. Today languages like Javascript can quickly be learned by children.

Nobody can escape the touch of digital technologies. It iis utilized in fields as diverse as hospital equipment, remote education delivery, marketing creative art pieces, or improving agricultural productivity. Coding language develops the application that may effectively cope with problems and challenges – as an example, as a result of coding, people who couldn’t get themselves a bank account are now able to keep, send, and borrow money using mobile phones. It’s an essential skill to have as countries develop.

In the las four decades, several studies have assessed the effectation of learning code on primary school children – usually between the ages of six and 13. In each case, the findings show that it’s advantageous to children, regardless of their career path afterwards in life.

Computer language

Coding is just another language, and children are known to learn new languages faster than older people. So starting young is a good idea.

Several countries – including Australia, Finland, Italy , and England – have developed a coding curriculum for children between the ages of five and 16 years.

Coding language works with zeros (0s) and ones (1s) and strings of these numbers represent an alphabet. These then translate into words and sentences which triggers the computer or processor to initiate specific tasks. For example, print an image on a screen, open a document that is saved on a computer, or play some music.

There are various coding languages. Some are so easy to understand and work with that even children can learn them. Visual programming languages – like Scratch – have been developed to help children learn to code using images, signs, and diagrams. Other programming languages that children can use include PythonRuby, and Go.

Most of these languages can be used to write a series of commands or to develop web applications.

Benefits of coding

Aside from giving them a head start for the future of work, compared to other forms of numeric sciences, learning code can enhance children’s creativity.

For instance, much of teaching math in Africa is still done through rote learning, a pedagogical method that is outdated and discourages creativity in children. Rote learning is based on memorization of information and repetition, “parroting” so to speak. Research shows that rote learning isn’t effective because the learner rarely gets to understand the application of what they have learned.

By comparison, coding builds logical thinking as it requires a focus on solving a specific challenge. This teaches children to evaluate situations from different angles and come up with creative solutions. They also get to test these ideas and, if they don’t work, figure out what went wrong.

Some studies have further suggested that coding enhances collaboration and communication, essential skills for future jobs.

Access to coding

Broadband and digital devices – such as computers and smartphones – are key tools for learning how to code. Access and affordability of these are essential. Governments must invest in broadband so that high quantities of data can be transmitted at high speeds. They should also provide subsidies, or at least not tax information and communications technology (ICT) toolsso that more children can learn coding at home or at school.

Many African countries, like Kenya, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Rwanda, have taken steps to reform the ICT sector and expand broadband capacity.

In Kenya, the government is aware of the need for ICT education and has started to integrate ICT into the curriculum.
The government also rolled out an ambitious Digital Literacy Program which would bring broadband to schools and try to integrate technology into learning.

But it may take some time to cover the entire country until there are enough resources to integrate it into all schools. In many African countries, even the more developed ones like Kenya, there are still basic challenges to address. For instance, a lack of infrastructure – like electricity – resources, computers, and teachers who know how to use technology.

Fortunately, there are informal ways in which children can learn to code. These include boot camps, codelabs, holiday coding camps, and after school coding groups. In Kenya, independent modular coding programs exist for children. There are also many free online learning tools that children can use such as Massachusettes Institute of Technology’s OpenCourseWare and Codecademy.

Coding is no longer the preserve of computer scientists. Every profession in some way needs it. Like other subjects, it is always better introduced at an early age.

This article is republished from The Conversation by Bitange Ndemo, Professor, the University of Nairobi under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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