Coding is part of the discipline of Computer Science which itself is defined by the term ‘Computational Thinking’. Seymor Papert, the renowned mathematician, computer scientist, and educator, wrote in his seminal book Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas (1980) that computational thinking is a ‘mode of thought’. It is a thinking discipline which, Papert claimed, can help to transform the way ‘intelligence is developed’ as it is ‘step-by-step, literal, mechanical’ and a very useful analytical skill.
All of us already think ‘computationally’ when we take any problem and formulate it into something that can be solved. Computational thinking can be applied to juggling a family’s schedule so everyone gets where they need to go and on time! Know that one well? Before writing any code, computational thinking requires a decomposing of the ‘problem’, recognising the patterns within it and applying abstraction. Young people become better problem solvers by learning to be analytical, to breakdown complex activity into bite-sized chunks, and to be precise. Coding is an execution of computational thinking.
In 2012, computing education rose again to prominence in the wake of The Royal Society report, Shut down or restart?, The way forward for computing in UK schools. The report bemoaned that ICT (software and office-based skills), which had become the norm in schools during the 1990s, was no longer fit-for-purpose. Computing, as opposed to computers, was again considered to be important. As a service-based knowledge economy, it was strongly felt that pupils in the UK were being left behind because the technology industry was recruiting from overseas.
The headline ‘learning to be creators not just consumers of technology’ spawned everywhere. Fast forward to today and there’s still a long way for computing education to go. Despite employers, educators and parents agreeing that young people need to learn to code, the required upskilling within the teaching profession is taking its time.
In addition to Fire Tech’s reasons kids should learn to code is our unique 2020 drive for young people to become confident digital leaders. Understanding the fundamentals of the computers that they use everyday is, we believe, a crucial prerequisite to becoming an active and engaged adult citizen.
Little ones as young as five years of age can start on ScratchJr, a superb early form of graphical programming. Graduating on to Scratch, (also developed by MIT), is seamless as Scratch has a similar look & feel and masks its complexity well. The annual Scratch Conference 2020 being held this year in the USA is a great opportunity to understand its hidden depths! Python, the syntax-based (written) programming language is popular with young learners of 9+ because of its English-like commands. Python is also a professional programming language used throughout the industry.
And coding is highly creative, fun and playful, especially at Fire Tech! Our young dynamic educators, who brim with contagious enthusiasm, embed computational thinking at the heart of all coding courses. In 2020 we are offering Junior Python (ages 9 to 12) and Teen Coding with Python (ages 14 to 17) as well as advancing their learning with Python II. And there’s plenty of computational thinking (and coding) across a huge range of other Fire Tech.