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Don't teach kids programming

igr profile image Igor Spasić ・2 min read

Programming is increasingly being introduced to primary schools. This is an initiative that is recognized all around the world - many kids are being taught programming.

Stop! We're wrong! Do not teach children programming!

The assumption is wrong. What we are doing is observing the present and noticing the rising trend of the need for developers. We extrapolate this fact and base the future on it, assuming that the same rules will apply in 10 or 20 years from now, at the time our children become old enough to work.

If there is something we do not know, it is what the future holds for the world. The dynamics of change in the digital industry are so extensive that there is no pattern which can be applied to them. The amount of information is multiplying; requirements change faster than ever. The truth is that we have no idea what the world will look like in 20 years. In such an environment, programming is, unfortunately, not a "joker" wildcard that will give our heirs a chance to master the world of the future.

Moreover, the type of programming the IT market is looking for is mercilessly monotonous and stumbling. It is all about the skill; programming today has been reduced to being more about the framework timing, and less about the science. Do we really want to involve children in such an anaemic world of programming?

Programming should not have a meaning in itself. Programming should be a tool - in fact, only one of the tools that will be available to people. The technical knowledge which we boast of and so passionately wish to put into young brains should not be taken as the primary source of knowledge.

Instead, we need to teach children critical thinking. In a world without censorship, but with fake news, a critical attitude is more important than programming patterns.

We need to teach children communication. A world in which everyone has a voice and an opinion about everything requires precise and clear communication skills and the ability to exchange ideas and thoughts.

We have to teach children to work together. In a world where there are more screens than people, cooperation becomes a necessary ingredient of progress.

And finally, we have to teach children creativity. Creativity is a part of what it means to be human. Creativity is something we need to constantly stimulate, now more than ever before, because that is the only way our children will discover how the world of tomorrow will function. Do not teach children programming. Teach them that they can and should change the present - that is going to be our future.

Discussion

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I loved this post!

I agree that we might be getting it wrong when adding coding lessons to schools' curriculums all around the world. Not every child needs to become a programmer...

Still, I think it's important for them to know how computers work and what they can do with them. So, they'll end up using them for their advantage (in whatever way they choose!).

I especially liked your ideas on how we need to teach critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. How do you think we could teach those 4 together with technology and make sure that kids look at coding as one more tool to express themselves?

Thanks for sharing, Igor.

 

Thank you for kind words!

To answer to your question: we might start from ourselves. We simply have to learn those skills ourselves - and there is still a lot to learn. Moreover, each curriculum in the tech for kids must not be only about tech. Thats where we should put all of our knowledge not to make them a 'coding monkeys':) And it is also vice-versa: put tech everywhere else - ask them to write a song with software, or to compare the same news in different media... and talk and talk and talk about things that are not so bright with tech, including p0rn, mis-concept of likes, influensers... we don't have luxury to push them into the vortex of what tech is today and hope they will figure everything by themselves, just because they understand how to code an algorithm...

For example I made a small set of workshops for one semester for 10-year olds... At the end of it, they were able to create a picture card for parents using some basic math, put it in a document, type some wishes for parents and send them from their mail accounts. But - we learned also that: there is not only one OS, that everything online can be compromised, that they should consider their data as their personal thing, that they should not communicate to unknown persons as well, and so on... every time we repeated together one or two of these premises, while working on the 'main' thing.

I get bit passionate about the sunject, sorry for long response :)

 

I love that! I agree that it should start with us learning more about computer science in general. And yes, Igor, there's still a lot to learn!

We see so much focus on how to bring computing and coding into schools, but learning about computers is something that should start at home, given the importance that they have in our lives.

Now it's a matter of how to make it easy for parents to bring the topic into their families, so we can all learn, together with our kids.

Funny that you mentioned the example of asking them to write a song with software. That's the topic around my next book. :D

P.S. As you can see, I also get very passionate about this!

Wow, great, when you expect book to be published!

I was thinking into writing (or collecting) set of 'tools' or 'practices' for every-day ppl... you know those little books for kids like '100 things you can make with paper' etc, so something like that but for adults (still not sure about the target group:). Where you could find dozens of ways to use technology and something from the real world. Emphasising using it as a tool. I just need to find way how not to sleep at night :))))

I love that idea, Igor! Let me know if you need help breaking the plan for it. I've worked on my books in between baby naps, so I might have some tips. :D

The world needs as many resources for this as possible!

(The first book is already on Amazon and for this one, I'm planning to open pre-orders in a month!)

 

I agree with you about what we should teach instead of programming like creativity or critical thinking but teaching programming is not teaching todays web frameworks, etc. conditions, loops, functions, strings will not change for at least 30 years. When a child learns to play with arduino by programming, she can be more creative I think. In addition, programming requires math so children see why it is useful. Thanks for the post.

 

That's debatable :) I firmly believe programming is a skill. That being said, I disagree with what kids are actually learning (and how) - it's complete waste of time. To use your example: it's perfectly fine to teach kids to play with the Scrach, Aurdino etc. and on the way, yes, they will learn about if, loops, signals, timings... but we must stop making such big fuss of it by praising and prioritizing it. Kids equally should learn about e.g., painting - in the same way how they play with Aurdino, they should play with a canvas... and everything else I mentioned up :) In other words, let's turn their minds onto exploring, connecting different contexts, playing... rather to give them one-way street of learning syntax.

Sorry for such vocative reply, I can get emotional with this subject :)

 

Education system creates people considering future requirements and market demands. Because of this, it is inevitable to have such system prioritized programming over painting. Besides, nothing has been thought equally or unbiased in the world and it will not be. Every parent is free to choose what is best for their kids by considering alternatives. Thanks for the heads up.