While programming computers sounds like a complicated ordeal that would bore the average person to tears, it can be a great boon to young children who are beginning their education.
The act of programming something unifies numerous concepts that children are acquiring in school. It requires critical thinking, foresight, and logic. Additionally, coding can help bolster a child’s understanding of abstractions and linguistic constructs. As media theorist Douglas Rushkoff pointed out in a column on CNN, all children are taught an algorithm, one of the fundamental concepts of computer science, when they learn to perform long division. He believes that once a child has mastered long division, he or she is ready to begin learning how to program.
The point of this movement is not to have small children churning out advanced code, but to grow their familiarity with the technology that surrounds them and improve their understanding of the various kinds of thinking that go into creating and improving something of their own.
The push to improve computer education beyond learning how to use existing software into writing code is relatively young, but is quickly gaining widespread support. Estonia recently began to teach programming skills to first graders, hoping to nurture the idea that computers can be used to be creative and solve problems.
There are various interfaces that exist to make these concepts digestible for youngsters. Scratch, for example, teaches object-oriented programming skills by allowing kids to build programs out of blocks that fit together in specific ways. It provides a controlled environment that won’t let users make serious syntactical errors, so they can acquire key programming concepts without the added difficulty and frustrations that come with acquiring high-level programming languages.