Programming. What exactly is it? To influence the new generation of innovators to learn such a skill, we must first define it in a way that truthfully illustrates the possible outcomes that stem from it. If you were to look up the definition of ‘programming’ on google right now you would end up reading something along the lines of “the process of assigning a code to something for the purposes of classification or identification”. How would that definition stimulate a child reading it to want to begin actively learning the process? Instead, we must provide a more accurate representation of the skill and what it achieves. Imagine if the definition of coding was something along the lines of “the ability to make your idea’s a reality; A skill that allows you to create your own games and become the producer rather than the consumer”. Now that would have inspired me as a kid to want to learn the art of programming.
If we truly want to get more children to learn programming starting at a young age, we need to change the environment in which we talk about it. In this sense coding can, and must, take a lot of notes from sports. Children are encouraged to participate in sports by today’s society because it will build connections and provide a goal or expectation to strive for. Going back to the example of definitions, the definition of sports even has the words ‘entertainment’ and ‘skill’ in it.
If a kid were to read todays definitions of coding and sports side by side, it’d be safe to assume that the kid would choose sports over coding 9 out of 10 times. We as the public must change the stigma that labels programing as a ‘nerdy’ and ‘lonely’ pastime and show kids the true potential of programming when people collaborate and explore ideas. Showing children the unrestricted potential at their fingertips and the satisfaction that comes with creating your first program is key in making this transition. Coding cannot be displayed as a chore but rather an outlet to openly express and bounce ideas off with friends, a playground for problem-solving and a store of possibilities.
Programming needs to be integrated in elementary school’s curriculum’s in a similar fashion as sports. Make a coding class with an open environment such as a P.E class where kids are free to try new things without judgement and learn off each other’s successes through collaboration. Perhaps the most important factor, make it fun. Inspire kids to make a video game of their choice or design an app that fits their passion. Let them discover for themselves the joy that comes along with programming by allowing them to work on what they find interesting. Treat coding like a sport, let the kids play. Ending the stigma that pairs both ‘nerdy’ and ‘programing’ in the same sentence is vital in increasing the number of little programmers to come in the coming decades.