What is the right way to teach coding to younger generations?

Tom Passmore

Children are more receptive to learning new languages at a young age, and coding is no different. It has begun to make its way into the classroom, but how can programming be taught most effectively?

Coding

Today’s young people are growing up in a radically different world. They are more plugged in than ever before, emulating the adults around them who work, relax and socialise online. With connected platforms at the forefront of our everyday lives, efforts to educate the next generation of programmes are increasingly at a monumental pace, with coding lessons now compulsory in UK schools from the age of five. But what should these lessons consist of, and how do we best teach tech skills to youngsters?

Recognising the need

Half of all primary and secondary school parents (52 per cent) agree that coding should be taught to all children before they leave school, with 40 per cent of these believing that it should be prioritised over art lessons. Furthermore, seven in 10 young adults feel let down by the lack of coding education that they received in school, wishing that they had been offered the same kind of opportunities currently afforded to today’s primary and secondary school students.

But these current lessons must push the boundaries and demonstrate that technology is about more than just the coding itself. Today’s innovations are becoming more and more complex – while someone could learn how to create a website simply by looking at the back-end of it, exploring online forums and tinkering with code, developing algorithms and protocols needs a new level of tech talent.

As a result, there is an emerging skills gap that is affecting the world of tech. In London alone, there is reportedly a shortage of 300,000 digitally skilled employees – and the issue is making an impact on industries across the globe. This has created a candidate-driven market, meaning that hiring the right talent can be costly for tomorrow’s organisations. Failure to do so, however, plans for future progress will be derailed, which impacts the economy on a wider scale. It’s an issue that can escalate quickly if it isn’t addressed by creating a talent pipeline, which starts in our nation’s primary schools.

Empowering tomorrow’s leaders

Our world runs on software and it is only setting to increasingly permeate our lives. Technology will – amongst other things – control our homes, drive our cars and provide care for those who need it. Failing to provide children with coding knowledge at an early age could lead them to be essentially illiterate in tomorrow’s world. While not every job will involve programming, that’s not to say that children shouldn’t learn the basics. By having a grasp of the algorithms and code that powers our devices, and therefore our lives, they’ll be better placed to make decisions regarding it.

This then develops computational thinking among the youngest members of our society. This combines logic with mathematics and algorithms, helping programmers to solve problems that they come across in the development process. By learning this problem-solving approach, children gain a new perspective of their challenges, and the world at large – bigger problems will be less intimidating because they’ll gain an understanding of how to break it down. It also supports the development of abstract thinking by creating models of real-world problems and pinpointing the contributing factors, which has applications beyond coding within the wider professional world, as well as critical thinking skills which are in high-demand in our automated world.

Providing the right tools

Unfortunately, despite the Government’s coding requirement in schools, many teachers feel ill-equipped to deliver coding lessons. Two thirds of teachers say they cannot effectively teach programming and 39 per cent are suffering from a lack of the right IT equipment and software, which is where business leaders have the opportunity to step up and have a significant impact.

Donating resources like equipment and employees’ time will reduce the strain on teaching staff, while exposing students to the real-world aspect of what they are learning. Taking this one step further, secondary school students could be invited for work experience opportunities or coding days. Encouraging pupils to take an interest in programming is more than teaching them the ins and outs of code, it’s about inspiring them to visualise its applications.

STEM Ambassadors is a not-for-profit organisation that delivers additional programming training in schools, with volunteers visiting to either support academic activities or host after-school clubs. Beyond this, there are a host of charities that are working to bridge the gap that is being left by under-resourced schools – CoderDojo offers free coding clubs, as does the Code Club. Industry leaders are also well aware of the need to encourage more women into the world of tech, which has driven the rise of female-targeted coding organisations like Code First Girls, and even Kode with Klossy, setup by American supermodel Karlie Kloss.

Teaching coding to younger generations is vital in a world of constant technological change. It requires a cross-industry, multi-party approach, with business leaders having a major role to play in preparing today’s student in collaboration with not-for-profits, schools and Government. It is only through working together that we can successfully develop tomorrow’s workforce.

OJO Solutions is a digital design and technology agency that are passionate about the future and how technology can help us live better lives.  To find out more about OJO and our wold please visit our website. 

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