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Introduction to Coding for Kids

Introduction to Coding for Kids

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Introduction to Coding for Kids has become a crucial part of their learning. Knowledge of coding helps in their overall development. It enhances logical thinking and develops an algorithmic approach to problem-solving.

What is Programming?

Let’s first start with the very obvious question “What is a computer program”?

A computer program is a set of instructions that a computer follows to complete a task. “Coding” or “programming” means writing the step-by-step instructions that tell the computer what to do.

In today’s world, computer programs are everywhere. It’s not only computers, but many other devices also contain programs.

  • Computer software – Everything the computer does, from browsing the Internet to writing documents or playing music, is  because of a code present inside it.
  • Cell phones – The program allows you to make phone calls, send a text message, search for a contact in the address list.
  • Games – Consoles are just other types of computers and all games that run on them are also programs. All the graphics, sounds, and control are computer codes
  • Appliances –  Washing machines are programmed to follow different cycles. Computer code controls how hot the water is and how long the wash takes.

Let us consider an example of a program that tells whether the year is a leap year or not.

year = int(input("Enter Year: "))
if year % 4 == 0 and year % 100 != 0:
print(year, "is a Leap Year")
elif year % 100 == 0:
print(year, "is not a Leap Year")
elif year % 400 ==0:
print(year, "is a Leap Year")
else:
print(year, "is not a Leap Year")

Activity 01: Can you write a program to check whether a number is an even number or an odd one?

Are Programming and Coding the Same Thing? Or are They Different?

After understanding the term programming, let us understand the concept of coding. Both the terms are used in lieu of one another, but is a difference between the two.

To understand the difference between the two, let’s first start with coding…

We all know that computers only understand the language of 1’s and 0’s also known as the binary language. To execute a program by the computer, the commands have to be translated into binary language. This process of translation of natural language into machine language is called coding.

“Then what is programming”? To create a product (software), you need to take several additional steps. These include planning, design, testing, deployment, and even maintenance. This whole process is called programming. Though coding is a big part of software development, it is not the most important part.

Programming vs Coding – Comparison

CodingProgramming
1. Coding means creating codes from one language to another.1. Programming means to program a machine to perform using a set of instructions.
2. It’s a primary method to facilitate communication between humans and machines.2. Programming is the formal act of writing code but on a much higher level.
3. It’s a part of a computer programming procedure that involves translating requirements into a machine-readable language.3. Programming is the bigger picture that involves everything from compiling and debugging to testing and implementation.
4. A coder just writes code without worrying about the details of the project.4. The job of a programmer is to conceptualize and analyze solutions to the problems before they occur.
5. Coders are programmers but with less expertise.5. Programmers are skilled professionals who work on substantial logic to solve complex problems.

Now, you might have understood that the question “Is coding and programming the same thing”?, is equivalent to the question “Is a tree and a forest the same thing”?

What is a Programming Language?

A programming language is a way, where a set of instructions is written in a program. Like “How are you?” (English), “Comment vas-tu?” (French), “Wiegehtes dir?”(German), “Ogenkidesuka?” (Japenese) all have the same meaning similarly, echo “Hello World!”; (PHP), print “Hello World!” (Python),puts “Hello World!” (Ruby), printf(“Hello World!”); (C) means the same. All of these instructions would print “Hello World!” to the screen.

Characteristics of Programming Languages

  • Diversity in Programming Languages: There are different types of programming languages available to programmers. Coders, software developers, web developers, and other computer science professionals use a varied number of programming languages. In fact, the total number of programming languages available to programmers is about 7,000 though there are 50 that are the most popular programming languages in use today. You’ve got Java, JavaScript, and CoffeeScript; Python and Ruby; C, C++, C#, COBOL, BASIC, Fortran, etc.
  • Merits and Demerits: Each has its own specific merits that suit a particular environment and application. 
  • Structure of Programming Languages: The structure of programs in different programming languages are different. And even the rules of writing the instructions vary from language to language, but the concept remains the same for every language. 
  • Programming languages are tools to convert English language sentences to binary form: Computers “think” in binary – strings of 0s and 1s. Programming languages allow programmers to translate the programs into a series of 0s and 1s that a computer can understand and execute. A programming language is a tool that allows you to write programs in a language similar to the English language and then converts the instructions in a program to a machine-readable form.
  • Act as a bridge between programmer and computer: A programming language is made up of a series of symbols that serve as a bridge that allows humans to translate their thoughts into instructions computers can understand.

Compilers and Interpreters

Since, most of the programming languages such as C/C++, Java, etc. use words and statements similar to that of the English language they all fall under the category of High-Level languages. The programs written in these languages known as Source Code are converted into machine-readable form also known as Object Code. There are two types of software available that convert source code into machine code – Interpreter and Compiler.

Compilers and interpreters are used to convert a program written in a high-level language into machine code which is understood by computers. But, there are differences between how an interpreter and a compiler works.

Let’s try to understand the difference between the two by considering the following scenarios:

When leaders of two countries meet and if they do not understand the language of one another, they are accompanied by an official called an Interpreter, whose job is to convert the conversation line by line. This is exactly what a computer interpreter does.

On  certain occasions, a leader delivers a speech in some language. After she/he finishes the whole speech it is translated into other languages for broadcast or telecast. This is what a computer compiler does and this process is called compilation.

To make you understand the working of interpreters and compilers, I am listing down the differences between the two.

InterpreterCompiler
1. Translates programfrom one statement at a time into machine code.1. Scans the entire program and translates it as a whole into machine code.
2. Interpreters usually take less time to analyze the source code. However, the overall execution time is comparatively slower than compilers.2. Compilers usually take more time to analyze the source code. However, the overall execution time is comparatively faster than interpreters.
3. No intermediate object code is generated, hence are memory efficient.3. Generates intermediate object code which further requires linking, hence requires more memory.
4. Programming languages like JavaScript, Python, Ruby use interpreters.4. Programming languages like C, C++, Java use compilers.

The Conventional Way of Programming – Text-Based

Most of the programming languages such as C++, Java, Python, etc. are text-based programming languages. In text-based programming languages, coding is done by typing various characters from a syntax or list of codes readable by a particular language.

Often when people talk about text-based languages they are referring to Python, C++, JavaScript which are ‘real’ programming languages that are used by professional software developers. In order to write a program using a text-based programming language, one needs to be very thorough with the rules of the language – Syntax and Semantics. While writing programs, using these languages even seasoned programmers have to deal with syntax and semantic errors in a program.

Types of Programming Errors

Programming errors are divided into three classes – logical, syntax and semantic.

  • Logical errors are the hardest of all the error types to detect. They do not cause the program to crash or simply not work at all, they cause it to “misbehave” in some way, rendering the wrong output of some kind. Logical errors have to do with program flow. If you get a wrong operation or a misordered operation, it’s probably a logical error. 
  • Syntax errors refer to instances when a program doesn’t follow a correct sequence in the computer language. It’s similar to spelling and grammatical errors in natural languages. These types of errors often stem from typing errors. Some examples of syntax errors would be missing semicolons at the line’s end and an extra/missing bracket at the end of a function.
  • Semantic errors are improper uses of “program statements”. In fact, logic errors produce wrong data while semantic errors produce nothing meaningful at all. Semantic errors have to do with meaning/context. It’s like the wrong word in the wrong place in a natural language sentence.

What is Coding for Kids?

Coding for kids provides the kids with all the possible opportunities to get involved in coding. These opportunities should not only aim to learn but also to be fun and game-oriented so as to keep the young and developing mind engaged.

Till very recently, coding was considered to be pursued only after school as a technical course. But now, time has changed. In today’s time, it has become almost essential for young kids to learn to code!

Whenever one thinks of coding, what comes to mind are complex computer programming statements, syntax and semantic errors, and long hours being spent in front of a computer screen. 

Apart from many practical and innovative uses, coding is also used for creative activities like:

  • Story writing
  • Animations
  • Creating gamesfree
  • Building websites
  • Creating mobile Apps

Kids are far more creative than adults and enjoy these activities a lot. Studies have determined that kids between the age of 5 and 15 years have high creativity and energy. Their imagination runs wild. Coding gives them a way to give wings to their imaginations. They can use their knowledge of coding to create and build things.

Coding for Kids

“I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer, should learn a computer language, because it teaches you how to think. I view computer science as a liberal art. It should be something that everyone takes.”

— Steve Jobs

What is the Best Way for Kids to Learn Programming?

As mentioned above, professionals use text-based programming languages to write programs. While writing programs using these languages they struggle through syntax and semantic errors. So, these types of languages are not suitable for kids and beginners to start learning to program. 

The best way for kids to start ‘writing’ programs is by using “Block Coding”.

 

kids coding
  • Drag and drop approach: This approach allows users to drag and drop visual block representations of text-based code (event listeners, functions, variables, sounds, and more) into the code editor – allowing the user to create games, apps, and other programs.
  • Programming is easy: Block coding has made the programming process a lot easier – especially for children and beginners. As sections of the code are grouped, it’s easier to find issues and address them. Block coding for kids utilizes a drag-and-drop approach where groups of codes i.e., blocks are already prepared on the side. All the programmer needs to do is select the block she/he wants, drag it to the input field, and drop it. Once it’s been dropped on the field, the coder can select another group of code (or even the same one) and repeat the process of, dragging and dropping all necessary pieces until they’ve constructed in a full sequence that meets their goal.
  • Ideal for beginners: In the context of coding for kids, block coding or block programming is an “entry-level activity” that allows children to gain a foundational understanding of how coding works. It also familiarizes them with the sort of computational thinking needed in programming through the use of visual cues rather than pure text.
  • Minimizes potential programming errors: Block code is generally defined as an element in software programming, used to convert text-based software code into a visual block format to minimize potential errors. By giving kids pre-generated chunks of instructions that they can simply piece together, you eliminate the risk of frustrating syntax and writing-based errors – errors that could potentially frustrate a beginner programmer. Working with blocks makes it easier for kids to just focus on elements such as sequence, situation, problem-solving, and goal construction.

How can Kids Learn Coding for Free?

As mentioned above,basic programming has become an essential skill for grown-ups and children alike. The benefits of picking up this skill, especially for kids, are huge: Learning how to build simple websites and games helps kids refine their design, logic, and problem-solving abilities. It also allows them to express ideas and creativity in unique ways.

There are several FREE programs that teach children how to code. Some of these are:

  • Code.org (https://code.org/): It is a non-profit organization website dedicated to expanding access to computer science in schools with a vision that every student in every school has the opportunity to learn computer science as part of their core education. 
  • Scratch (https://scratch.mit.edu/): Scratch is a project of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. Scratch helps young people learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively – essential skills for life in the 21st century.
  • Swift Playgrounds (https://www.apple.com/swift/playgrounds/): Swift Playgrounds is a revolutionary app for iPad and Mac that makes learning swift, interactive, and fun. It requires no coding knowledge, so it’s perfect for students just starting out. Swift – a powerful programming language created by Apple.

What is the Right Age to Start Coding?

In today’s digital age, young adults are advised to pick up the basics of computer programming as early as possible. It’s common knowledge that children under the age of 7 acquire foreign languages rapidly. So, why not a computer language?

Coding or computer programming is a creative process programmers perform to tell a computer how to perform a task. At its foundation, it involves writing computer programs using programming languages.  Coding for kids is usually taught by using content that involves engaging in creating creative activities. It is typically gamified making it fun for kids to learn. For this reason, kids at the age of  5 can start learning how to code using visual block interfaces.  At CodingHero, we provide kids computer programming courses using games, apps, and other kid-centric approaches that have been proven to teach real-world skills in a way that keeps students engaged.

Which Programming Languages a Kid Can Learn?

The very first question that comes to mind is “Which programming language is best to start learning to code?”. With the availability of Coding Block environments and Visual Editors or IDEs (Integrated Development Environment), there are many options available for beginners.

In these environments, the user doesn’t have to worry about the structure and syntax of the programming language which is taken care of by the environment itself. Hence, the coder has to focus only on the logic part of the program. 

Among all these languages, the first choice of course are Scratch and HTML.

  • Scratch is a free programming language and online community where you can create your own interactive stories, games, and animations. With Scratch, the kids can master programming skills by starting with coding blocks.
  • HTML (HyperText Markup Language) is an easy way to learn a programming language and is used to create web pages. The Internet has become a part of our lives. The information on the Internet is provided through web pages. And these web pages are displayed on a user’s screen by a software called Web Browser or simply the browser. There are various types of browsers available in the market like Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, Safari, Netscape Navigator, etc. Kids can create their own web pages by learning HTML.

Learning Programming Languages would Help My Child in the Future?

Earlier it was very common to have 3Rs (three Rs), in elementary school curriculum: Reading, ‘Riting’ (Writing), and ‘Rithmetic’ (Arithmetic). Now, along with these Rs, one ‘C’ (Coding) also has become an essential element in kids learning.

When it comes to preparing your child for the future, helping thm learn coding is one of the best options. Coding can help your child develop skills, not only in Math and Science, but also in critical life skills like problem-solving, critical thinking, communication, organization, and planning.

As pointed out in the beginning, Coding has become a basic literacy in the digital age along with the Three-Rs. It is very important for your child to understand and be able to associate with the technology around them. As your child writes more complicated code, they will naturally develop life skills like concentration and organization. 

Debugging (correcting errors in code) is an important part of coding. Even experienced programmers spend a lot of time debugging to make a program perfect. This feature of coding makes a person flexible in thinking as they learn it is ok to fail and improve. There is no better way to build flexibility than working through challenges like debugging code! 

Kids also feel empowered to make a difference when they code. Parents have even reported that their kids develop more confidence as they learn to solve problems through coding.

Technology is changing the way we work, and it’s happening quickly. In today’s rapidly evolving digital world, it’s more important than ever that your child has the skills they need to adapt and succeed, and obviously, coding becomes a bigger  part of that. Nowadays, jobs are rapidly growing automated and more than half of today’s highest-paid jobs require some sort of coding skills. 

The 2030 job economy will have more tech-centric skill demand. Taking the pattern of today’s job skill, every third employee must undergo reskilling. Then why not start learning the skills from an early age? 

As per the World Economic Forum, about half of the core skills are set to change by 2022 alone! At the very least, kids today must be familiar with basic coding concepts to prepare for the job market demands. And like learning a second language, learning coding is the best thing at a young age.

Is Online Learning Effective?

Online learning is certainly a more effective option for students. The online courses designed for school students generally have a format many classrooms similar to in-person courses. The teacher provides individual attention to the students. And to have a classroom feeling, it provides virtual discussion among the students, assigns homework, and follows up with individual students.

Sometimes these courses are synchronous (teachers and students all meet at the same time) and sometimes they are asynchronous (non-concurrent). In both cases, the teacher is supposed to provide opportunities for students to engage thoughtfully with the subject matter, and students, in most cases, are required to interact with each other virtually.  It is not surprising that in-person courses are, on average, more effective. Being in person with teachers and other students creates social pressures and benefits that can help motivate students to engage. Some students do as well in online courses as in in-person courses, some may actually do better.

Advantages of Coding in Developing Academic Skills

Generally in schools, Maths is taught in a very abstract manner. A child is not able to connect their learning to real-world situations.  It has been proven that learning to code reinforces math skills and helps kids visulize abstract concepts in real-world situations.

Not only Math and Science, it also teaches logical communication, strengthening both verbal and written skills, which in  turn is helpful in language learning.  Coding instill qualities like creativity that help kids perform better in school. While coding, kids learn through experimentation, which in turn strengthens their brains, allowing them to find creative solutions to problems.

1. Improve Writing Abilities

Did you know that writing and coding go hand in hand? Coding helps in developing strong writing skills. When they learn to code and create digital storytelling projects, children acquire skills that improve their writing, and they have fun in the process.

A writer’s tools for telling a story include words and sentences. Coders have access to a more open-ended medium, including pictures, music, and animation, in addition to words. The flexibility of programming even allows children to make their story react to audience input. Writing a script in a story-based game forces kids to think through the exact details and consequences of how their characters act. They can’t be vague – they have to struggle with their ideas, an important skill that takes practice.

2. Coding is a New Medium for Self Expressing

Traditionally a writer’s tools for expressing himself is by telling a story that includes words and sentences. Coders have access to a more open-ended medium, including pictures, music, and animation in addition to words. The flexibility of programming even allows children to make their story react to audience input (interactive way of storytelling). Writing a script in a story-based game forces kids to think through the exact details and consequences of how their characters act. They can’t be vague – they have to hone their ideas, an important skill that takes practice.

3. Coding Reduces the “Blank Page” Syndrome

Blank Page Syndrome is an overwhelming sensation that plagues most students at one time or another and varies in intensity. It involves a lack of ideas or inspiration from which the person would develop their work.

The basic requirements for a story-based game are narrative pacing, compelling storylines, engaging dialogue, and an understanding of the audience. In short, it requires the same skills that some children struggle with when their English teacher hands out a creative writing assignment. When kids code, they start with one character, then experiment with dialogue, movement, and interactions. They build from there by adding other characters, scenes, and interactions. The program starts at the child’s point of interest and evolves to a final product through a process of experimentation and iteration.

4. Coding Teaches Focus, Planning, and Organizing Skills

Planning and organizing are the fundamental elements in every aspect of life at an academic or professional level. Soft skills are a popular notion in the business world, and they encompass qualities like leadership, communication, and perseverance. Programming and writing follow a similar process. When children start a coding project, they plan out the different functions they will need and how these functions will work together to make the project work. In the same manner, to write an essay, they must organize their ideas into paragraphs and understand how the paragraphs fit together.

5. Strengthens Math Performance

The conventional belief has always been that kids interested in coding should have strong math skills. However, it turns out the reverse is also true: coding can help children build math skills and make learning math more engaging and fun. Whether kids are learning to code at school or at home, you may just see an impact on their overall academic performance!

6. Develops Creativity

Coding helps kids to develop creativity by cultivating these three qualities:

  • An experimenter’s mindset: Creative thinking begins with a questioning mindset. Encouraging kids to experiment, explore ideas, question their assumptions, make mistakes, and learn from them teaches creativity. Kids are exposed to the process of experimentation through programming. They start by learning a handful of commands to do simple tasks, and with each successful result, they slowly gain the confidence to try new and more ambitious things, things that force them to question each decision and ask, “What if I tried something else?”
  • Whole-brain thinking: Each side of the brain is said to control different parts of thinking and information processing. The left hemisphere is typically associated with logical, technical, and analytical thinking, whereas the right hemisphere is associated with imagination, artistic, intuitive thinking. We tend to think of creativity as a right-brain function, but the most creative thinkers and problem solvers can effectively engage both hemispheres. Coding acts as a bridge between these two parts of the brain.
  • An inborn desire to be a creator: Like learning a sport or a musical instrument or any form of art, cultivating creativity requires hard work and practice. For kids, if the work is confusing, monotonous, or the end goal unappealing, the desire to practice weakens. They need to be in an environment that builds confidence and instills in them a genuine desire to create. As the kids are more inclined towards technology and find it more convenient and easy so giving them a basic knowledge of programming on a coding platform that is fun and easy to use is one of the best ways they can spend time in practice and actually enjoy the process.

Advantages of Coding in Developing Life Skills

1. Coding makes your child ready for future

Technology is changing the way we work, and it’s happening quickly. In today’s rapidly evolving digital world, it’s more important than ever that your child has the skills they need to adapt and succeed, and obviously, coding becomes a big part of that. Nowadays, jobs are rapidly growing automated, and more than half of today’s highest-paying jobs require some sort of coding skills. 

The 2030 job economy will have more tech-centric skill demand. Taking the pattern of today’s job skill, every third employee must undergo reskilling. Then why not start learning the skills from an early age? 

As per the World Economic Forum, nearly half of the core skills are set to change by 2022 alone! At the very least, kids today must be familiar with basic coding concepts to prepare for the job market’s demands. And like learning a second language, learning coding is the best thing at a young age.

2. Coding teaches focus, planning and organizing skills

Planning and organizing are the fundamental elements in every aspect of life at an academic or professional level. Soft skills are a popular notion in the business world, and they encompass qualities like leadership, communication, and perseverance. Programming and writing follow a similar process. When children start a coding project, they plan out the different functions they will need and how these functions will work together to make the project work. In the same manner, to write an essay, they must organize their ideas into paragraphs and understand how the paragraphs fit together.

What Type of Computer is Needed to Learn to Code?

If you are starting your coding journey, then purchase the best one possible. The quality of your work is dependent upon the reliability of what you use to create it.

Different types of computers are available to suit different needs, still, there are general requirements to consider that will make your coding journey more enjoyable and comfortable:

  • An Intel Core i5 processor with a frequency of 3 GHz
  • At least 4 GB of RAM, but room to upgrade to 16 GB
  • A 256 GB hard disk drive
  • Battery life of six hours if you choose a laptop

The one feature that many coding beginners overlook is the quality of the keyboard. You are going to be typing daily, so you need something that does not compromise on quality.

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