Why Teach Kids to Code?

After a day of wrangling natural languages and a week of slogging through SQL queries, I needed a break this afternoon. Thankfully, TED offered this recent talk by Mitch Resnick on the benefits of teaching kids to code:

The talk is a little bit cheesy, but he makes some good points:

When you become fluent with reading and writing, it’s not something that you’re doing just to become a professional writer. Very few people become professional writers. But it’s useful for everybody to learn how to read and write. Again, the same thing with coding. Most people won’t grow up to become professional computer scientists or programmers, but those skills of thinking creatively, reasoning systematically, working collaboratively — skills you develop when you code in Scratch — are things that people can use no matter what they’re doing in their work lives.

Although I think that reading and writing are more directly applicable to daily life, I think coding can be easily related to foreign languages. Not everyone will find themselves in a foreign country or needing to speak a foreign language on a regular basis, but the process of learning another language teaches a person about their own language and about other ways of thinking about the world. Given how strongly I advocate for foreign language education in school, I could imagine advocating for coding being there, too. And I agree that children don’t necessarily pick up these coding skills on their own:

So young people today have lots of experience and lots of familiarity with interacting with new technologies, but a lot less so of creating with new technologies and expressing themselves with new technologies. It’s almost as if they can read but not write with new technologies.

I grew up on the cusp between kids who learned to program on their Commodore 64s and kids who got a cell phone in elementary school. I think I got the best of both worlds: I had a computer as a small child, but I also had a computer with DOS. And I agree that younger generations probably consume digital media with more ease than they manipulate and program it, but then, they also have easy access to learning about programming through online platforms.

Speaking of learning through online platforms, I better get back to those SQL query exercises!