We’re sure you’ve heard it before: Children should begin learning coding concepts and programming languages early, at home and in the classroom. You might be wondering why, beyond some of the obvious aspects like a career path in software development. It is true that there are numerous benefits and career paths that can stem directly from learning to code – probably more than you’re aware of. In this blog, the Teachers on Call in-person and online tutoring team share advice on this topic for families, as well as a cool opportunity from our computer science loving friends at Canada Learning Code, so read on!
Our digital world — the digital technologies embedded in how we live, work, interact and learn — might sometimes feel distant from the actual world we live in. But, these technologies play a critical role in understanding how our world functions. The Teachers on Call online tutoring blog covered the numerous benefits of students learning to code with Melissa Sariffodeen, Co-Founder of the national non-profit organization, Canada Learning Code. You can still read our interview here on Hour of Code and Canada Learning Code Week.
This year, we connected back with the CEO of Canada Learning Code for further advice on the topic. According to Rekha Rao-Mayya, “Empowering children with coding skills not only opens doors to endless career possibilities but also cultivates a generation committed to sustainability. As we celebrate Canada Learning Code Week this year, our goal is to inspire youth to code for a cause—reducing CO₂ emissions. By fostering a love for programming, we equip children to not just navigate the digital landscape but also to be architects of a greener, more sustainable world. Harness the power of code, ignite young minds, and together, let's shape a future where innovation meets environmental stewardship.”
Change-makers use data management and visualization to help find contributing factors to the climate crisis and come up with solutions to mitigate the effects of climate change. This means people working at places like NASA, the Government of Canada, and the United Nations are coding! Read on as we delve deeper into the countless benefits and career paths available to students learning coding!
Future Career Paths for Children Learning to Code
Let’s kick off with the first question most parents probably have: how will my child be able to apply learning to code to a life skill or career? We’re glad you asked. A huge number of technical and quasi-technical fields make use of programming. It’s not just directly for writing applications; knowing how to program enables making all sorts of helpful tools for processing research and data analysis, too!
Here are some of the big career path categories that directly use programming and programming languages to varying degrees.
- Software Development and Engineering – Perhaps the most straightforward path for programming, software development is a huge field. People who have taken a career path as a software engineer or a software developer can create all sorts of apps, websites, and systems.
- Data Science and Analysis – Virtually every company on the planet now is in the business of collecting data. However, someone must enable practical use of all this collected data. Businesses, research, and healthcare are the largest fields for Data Scientists and Data Analysts, but even fields like marketing and consulting can make great use of analytics.
- IT and Cybersecurity Specialists - With the increasing importance of digital security, there is a growing demand for professionals who can protect systems and networks from cyber threats. IT and Cybersecurity is huge field that runs from entry level positions using programming to do more of a data analysis role, all the way to IT Systems and Architecture, Auditing, and Consulting.
- Robotics Engineering – In a world where more and more automation is happening, there’s an increasing need for Robotics Engineers and individuals in a workforce that can create, program, and maintain the systems. Robots can build cars, help with healthcare, and even explore other planets in our solar system! Pretty cool, right?
- Game Development – Whether on the phone, a gaming console, or the computer, all games have one thing in common: they’re all software programs! Coding and programming are as fundamental to game developers as it is to software engineers.
- Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Engineers - As AI and machine learning become increasingly integral to various industries, professionals with coding skills are needed to develop and train algorithms for tasks like image recognition, natural language processing, and predictive analytics.
- The next wave of educators - Those with coding skills can pass on their knowledge by becoming educators or trainers, helping others learn to code and understand the intricacies of technology. As more fields become specialized and in need of people with these skills, someone will have to teach, of course!
Benefits of Learning Programming Languages and the Logic of Coding
Even if your child doesn’t go directly into one of the possible career paths that directly uses programming, learning coding concepts and the basics of programming language could give them a giant leap forward in life. There’s literally no downside to learning!
Programming languages equip children with a broad set of skills applicable across many different disciplines, including many that don’t require programming at all! Here are some of the ordinary, everyday skills that learning coding teaches:
- Developing Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving - Programming requires breaking down a complex problem into smaller, manageable tasks that are solved one by one. Children learn to approach challenges systematically.
- Aiding Creativity and Innovation - Coding gives children a new tool to explore their own creativity with. This could be a game or a program, or any number of digital creations.
- Building Logic and Mathematics Skills - Coding involves logical reasoning and mathematical concepts. Your child may learn to approach math from a very different perspective that will help them grasp the concepts in a deeper, more fundamental way.
- Teaching problem solving, persistence, resilience, and patience - Programming requires trial and error, debugging, and refining code. As any adult who has solved a complicated problem knows, it can require a lot of persistence, resilience, and patience!
- Improving Digital Literacy - Understanding how software works and being able to manipulate digital tools is a fundamental aspect of digital literacy. Coding provides a hands-on approach to understanding these technologies, empowering children.
- Improving Communication Skills - Collaborative coding projects and troubleshooting often involve communication with peers. Group projects are great for building vocabulary, teaching better articulation, and communication.
- Project Management - Coding projects often require planning, organization, and time management from kids as they break down tasks, set goals, and work towards completing their projects.
Great Programming Languages for Older Children Learning Coding
Okay, you’re sold, right? But what programming languages are important for a child learning coding, and where will they benefit most in time spent? This is far from a comprehensive list of programming languages, but these are among the biggest and most commonly used.
- Python – Perhaps currently the most popular and in demand, largely driven by the extensive libraries and frameworks available.
- Java and Kotlin – Java is an older language, but one still very much supporting enterprise-level applications for companies, which would require continued support. Kotlin is considered a more modern alternative to Java and is interoperable with it; it’s also officially supported for Android App development.
- Swift – Apple’s preferred language for iOS and macOS ap development.
- C++ - A huge and versatile language similar to Python used in all kinds of apps, game development, and system programming.
But how do I choose the right programming language?
With so many options, picking just one can feel a bit overwhelming. There’s good news: much of the logic and even many bits of syntax are commonly found in many different programming languages. It will be easy to learn a different language as long as one of these most common programming languages are learned first.
How Can I Get My Child Started in Learning Coding?
There are dozens of free and paid apps and programs that support a variety of languages and concepts. Some of these may be geared towards younger children, simply introducing them to the basics of command logic through gamification.
If you’re looking at a program that takes a more comprehensive approach, you’re free to have a look online at what’s available, but here are a few options that will focus on bigger learning experiences with actual programming language involvement.
CodeMonkey – This online platform is aimed at teaching kids aged 5 to 14 years old. Both block and text coding is available while playing, and it introduces CoffeeScript and Python to its players.
Canada Learning Code Week - Is Your School Participating? This event takes place virtually every year, and this year, Canada Learning Code Week takes place December 4-10, 2023! This program is made to encourage learning of all grades and skill levels of coding. Children who are brand new to coding will be able to participate. Will your child be participating? If not, be sure to ask your teacher to join the fun!
Last year students all over Canada learned how to code and filled Emoji World with 1000s of emojis including many poop emojis. Unfortunately, this has resulted in the release of too much CO₂ and now Emoji World is at risk of severe climate change. Through Canada Learning Code Week for 2023, kids will be able to see how they can make an impact by learning code to reduce CO₂ emissions on Emoji World. That way, they can understand the potential impact they can have on our own world.
Teachers and educators around Canada can get free lesson plans for Canada Learning Code Week delivered to their inbox simply by signing up. (P.S. All year round, Canada Learning Code offers live online and in-person workshops for adults, too!)
*Feature photo provided by Canada Learning Code.
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