Coding, a key skill for Generation Alpha
“Everyone should learn to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.” –Steve Jobs
We live in an increasingly digitized and hyperconnected world. A digital revolution is underway and everything around us is becoming technological: whether it’s playing a game on your phone or delivering food from your favorite restaurant.
Our schools are an essential part of this revolution. Schools are slowly embracing multimodal and hybrid learning through tabs for teachers, smart TVs in classrooms, and apps that keep learning going at home. The aim is to make learning engaging and meaningful through a range of audio-visual experiences. All of this has been possible thanks to the integration of technology into pedagogy and the curriculum.
Every day, new career opportunities emerge, based on analytical thinking, creative problem solving and dealing with numbers. Although children learn science and math in school, is that really enough to help them prepare for the future? How can we ensure our children are ready to succeed in a technology-driven world?
Generation Alpha, or children born after 2010, have no choice but to be digitally savvy. After all, their worldview and outlook will increasingly be shaped by the prism of technology, regardless of their background, location or choice of profession. It therefore became necessary to introduce them to coding and calculation skills at an early age. This can be achieved effectively by integrating coding and computational skills as a subject in school, which then lays a solid foundation for artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Why should kids learn to code?
- Critical mind: Coding improves critical thinking in children as they learn to do objective analysis while evaluating error. Developing critical thinking skills can help students make appropriate judgments. Being a process of careful observation and analysis, critical thinking enables children to skillfully comprehend information that leads to disciplined action.
- Preparing for the future: The evolving nature of work today means that future employees must be well versed in digital skills and technologies. A strong foundation in coding can open up a world of diverse job opportunities across all industries, given how services and products are increasingly digitized.
- Skills for problem solving: Coding offers children the opportunity to solve seemingly complex problems. It challenges and strengthens their ability to rationalize and is known to develop cognitive abilities.
- Nurtures creativity and a growth mindset: By nature, every child is curious. Coding for kids is a fundamentally creative process. Unlike the analog or offline world, where creativity is often a function of hardware and tools, the only restriction in coding is a child’s imagination!
- Learning by doing: A child learns best by exploring and ‘doing’; and coding naturally promotes this.
Embrace a coding-based curriculum
India’s national education policy recommends that all students learn coding, to become good, successful, innovative, adaptable and productive human beings in today’s rapidly changing world. Computational thinking and mathematics were emphasized throughout the school years. According to the policy, encouraging children to learn to code and exposing them to technology at a young age will take them far and better prepare them for the future.
Schools can maximize the effectiveness and relevance of coding by:
- Learning at school: As a child spends 6-7 hours in school every day, one of the most effective ways for them to learn coding is to include it in the school curriculum. Well-trained and certified teachers can teach the codes and demonstrate the programs used in school computer labs.
- Focus on one language: The coding includes several languages including Java and Python. Students must first learn one language before moving on to the next.
- Treat: The whole coding process is focused on solving a problem. It is best to teach students how to break the problem down into several smaller problems.
- Continually challenge students: Students’ thinking skills should be challenged by providing them with problems that match their current skill levels. For example, syntaxes and semantics can be mixed.
- Project-based learning: Students should be encouraged to create several projects such as creating a website for sharing e-books or notes among classmates, creating a tic-tac-toe game, creating a snake and ladder game, etc.
India, which will overtake China as the world’s most populous nation by 2023, is expected to have a population of 1.668 billion in 2050. We have the potential to emerge as a global superpower with a strong demographic dividend. However, planning for a confident and future-ready workforce in India requires that coding and numeracy skills are embedded into school curricula from the outset; be made enjoyable as a subject by encouraging collaborative project-based learning; and be taught effectively by well-trained teachers with a vision for the future.
The opinions expressed above are those of the author.
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