So what exactly is the appetite among kids for learning to code?
Yougov carried out a survey for the Mozilla Foundation, Nominet Trust and NESTA to find out. 75% of kids said that they were very or fairly interested in learning to develop video games, design apps and create websites. (They didn’t ask about robotics, alas!) Two thirds of kids said that they were very or fairly interested in learning to program computers and write code. Only 3% said that they already knew how.
Kids have the appetite to start learning to create the technologies they love. They are looking for the tools to express themselves in the media they are most comfortable with. They know that knowledge is power. But where can they learn to code? Most of them, sadly, aren’t learning it in schools. At the moment there is no official state ICT curricula at all, in recognition that the previous one wasn’t serving its purpose. Many schools train young people in how to *use* softwares, but only a few are teaching them how to *create* software. And yet, there are clear signs that kids need technology skills.
Mark Surman, Executive Director of Mozilla, said “Digital literacy is now an essential fourth pillar alongside reading, writing and mathematics….”
It isn’t that every kid is going to grow up to be a programmer. No more than every kid is going to grow up to be a chemist or a physicist. But every kids needs to know what’s “under the bonnet,” and the economy has a whole need to be developing a pipeline of young people who will be the tech builders in the decades to come.
Luckily, there are more and more opportunities for kids (and adults) to learn to code. Schools are getting more involved, either through curricula or through extra-curricular voluntary initiatives like Code Club and Apps For Good. Open source resources are available on line, which kids can use with mentors and instructors, and also in their own time. AppShed and Game Salad are two of our favourites. Codecademy is helping kids and adults brush up on their coding skills, and I’ve spent quite a few rainy Saturday afternoons learning Java with my nine year old, of late. Coder Dojo and our own Fire Tech Camps offer different formats, live and unaffiliated with schools. For older kids and adults, Coursera, EdX and the other MOOCs have basic programming courses. General Assembly and Decoded offer courses in tech for non-techies, mainly for an adult audience. And these are just a few of the resources on offer.
In a lot of ways, there has never been a better time than now to start coding – user friendly, open source resources set up for all ages, and easy ways to squirt what you learn out into a useable, shareable format! I started my geeky ways back in the glorious 80s, but I believe there’s never been a better time to get your hands dirty coding than now.