Friday, February 28, 2014

Introducing young children to the world of computer programming

Shelly Flais, MD
We at Pediatric Health Associates support your child's health and medical concerns, and we also seek to nurture kids as a whole, including both mind and body. In this spirit, today's blog post is on the topic of childhood education, to provide food for thought for parents in the evolving 21st century. As Illinois schools implement newer Common Core standards, the face of education continues to evolve. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) curricula are gaining more attention as these fields foster particular skills that will be necessary for the workforce over the next few decades. Computer science offerings, such as basic computer programming, however, are more challenging to find for students and usually are not available in public schools until the high school level. NPR recently addressed this issue; to read more, check out the article at http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2014/02/17/271151462/a-push-to-boost-computer-science-learning-even-at-an-early-age?utm_medium=Email&utm_source=share&utm_campaign=

Why introduce computer programming concepts to a young child? Much like playing a musical instrument, some of the fundamentals of computer science can be taught even in the primary grades, deepening a child's understanding with time and experience. Even though we use computers, smartphones, and tablet technology frequently, many of us have no personal experience in computer science and we may feel intimidated by the idea of writing computer code. To code is to create computer software instructions that tell the program what to do, step by step. Even younger kids can start to learn these concepts in a fun way.

 A great website for families to check out is code.org/learn. Code.org® is a non-profit group dedicated to expanding participation in computer science and computer programming education. Parents can browse the website to find kid-friendly tutorials for beginners, tutorials that teach JavaScript and other programming languages, and even resources to make your own apps. Activities are divided into different target age ranges, including kindergarten through 2nd grade, 3rd through 7th, and 8th through 12th. The beginner tutorial includes "Scratch" (found at http://scratch.mit.edu/) a coding game for younger kids that even my 2nd grade daughter has had fun exploring. When kids are having fun, the learning comes naturally and easily! New books are being released for kids to learn computer science; one good example is "Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming" by Jason Briggs, intended for kids 10 years and older.

We parents seek to introduce a variety of experiences and interests to our kids to help educate them and help them find their own passions for their future. I hope you can explore resources to expose your kids to some computer programming basics, no matter what age they are, to help de-mystify the computer sciences for them. Just as biology, physics, chemistry and algebra are included in current school curricula, computer science should be on parents' radar screens as well.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

sThanks so much for sending this link. its great to know that your medical practice cares about not just kids physical health but also, educational health. I took it upon me to share this wonderful article with my husband and friends. It also took me to the excellent blogs you have on your site :)
Thanks again :)