Teaching kids to code from the comfort of your own home
Online skills are becoming as important as reading and writing for the younger generations, so why not give them a head start?
Reading, writing, arithmetic and … html?
As of 2014-2015, 86% of Australian households have access to the internet, which is why it makes sense for children to be as code-savvy as possible from a young age.
Knowing their way around a computer could help them to build foundations for future academic and career success, or at the very least give them a few more options down the track.
Outside of school, there are a number of ways for children to become familiar with the concept of coding, which enables the creation of the many apps, games, websites and online services that enrich our lives.
Here are some options from Australia and around the world:
This is a straightforward introduction to coding for children who are able to read and follow instructions.
At the top of the page the cute Code Monster has a speech bubble that you can click on to receive the next round of instructions.
Below the monster is a basic black square that you can change the size, shape and colour of. Kids can see the exact code and the results of their changes in real time.
They have the chance to play around and see how basic coding works before they graduate to more complex learning.
Supporters of code.org include Bill and Melinda Gates, Mark and Priscilla Zuckerberg, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman.
Launched in 2013, this US-based site has the goal of “increasing access to computer science and increasing participation by women and underrepresented students of colour”.
The vision of code.org is that every student in every school have the opportunity to learn computer science.
The site has a range of free courses, including the popular ‘Hour of Code’ that can be streamed to anyone on the planet who has access to a fast enough internet connection.
There are also attention grabbing lessons that feature Disney’s ‘Frozen’ sisters, Star Wars characters and Angry Birds.
Reminding parents that “coding is the new literacy”, ScratchJr is aimed at children as young as five years old.
Downloadable as an app for iOS or Android, ScratchJr encourages children to program their own interactive stories and games. The app uses programming ‘blocks’ that allow characters to move, dance and jump on the screen.
This encourages children to learn design while fostering their problem solving abilities. Kids can change colours and add their own voices, sounds and photos to their creations.
Teachers around the world are incorporating the use of this app, which is an offshoot of MIT’s more sophisticated Scratch programming language, into their regular lessons.
The app is specially designed for young children to give them a developmentally appropriate understanding of how coding works.
Code Club Australia
The mission of Code Club Australia is to give every child in Australia the skills, confidence and opportunity to shape their world.
Aimed at children aged 9-11, Code Club is a nationwide network of free, volunteer-led after-school coding clubs that currently has 50,000 student members.
Kids who get involved get started by learning to create animation, websites and basic video games.
Classes are even hosted in person at libraries, community centres and schools around the country.
Check out codeclubau.org to see if there is a club near you.
Suitable for all age groups, Code Academy is ‘teaching the world to code’, with lessons covering everything from HTML and CSS to Java and building a website from scratch.
Users describe how much they enjoy learning ‘the universal language of code’ and there are ample resources for schools and education outlets within this platform.
Kids wanting to learn using Code Academy would be best off doing so with the guidance of an adult, as it skews towards a more mature audience.
Remember handing assignments in on paper, or even via email?
Thanks to the push for computer science education, it seems likely that students of the future will be demonstrating their classroom skills with hand-built websites and even smartphone applications.
It's not just coding that kids can learn online. Check out these fun and educational apps for kids.