Talk to any parent of a toddler and you are bound to hear stories of how the child can operate their phone/ipad/TV.
Since children are exposed to technology at such early ages now, they learn to interact with technology even when babies. While we marvel at how such young children can pickup so much, – children who are still learning basic things like how to tie their shoe laces- I think the question answers itself.
At the same time that they figure out how to open/close a door latch, they see how a mobile application opens/closes at a click/tap. Since their grasping capacity is at its best in early childhood, by the time children are in primary school, they are familiar and comfortable with technology. They can search for information on the internet, watch Youtube videos of things that interest them, play games, and as they grow up – interact using email and social media. They are what are popularly called “digital natives”.
In school, they their curriculum helps them learn to use various tools to present information- documents, spreadsheets, presentations, etc.
Bottom line is- use of technology is second nature to children. But can they create using it? Can they express their ideas in the form of technology?
As Mitch Resnick of MIT’s Media Lab says, interacting with technology is like reading, whereas creating with technology is like writing. No education can be complete without either of the two. Computer programming is the tool to create with technology.
Resnick’s TED Talk on why children should learn to code became very popular, and is certainly worth a watch-
It may be perceived that learning computer programming may only be useful if the child becomes a software professional in future. But do we all learn to write to become professional writers? We use writing as a tool of expression, which is exactly what programming does in this digital age. It also enhances skills like problem-solving abilities and logical thinking.
But will children find it interesting to write code like professionals do?
I don’t think so.
Researchers like Mitch Resnick at MIT’s Media Lab developed the an age-appropriate programming language called Scratch. The look and feel is somewhat like this-
This program internally works with code just like shown in the image 1, but the students work with this more appealing, very visual look and feel.
Children can create animations, games, and write programs to simulate laws of science, among others. They can also learn about how computers are an integral part of modern machines by connecting mechanical objects– like activities created by Lego WeDo– to the computer, and then programming them to control their actions.
With such interesting tools for toys, I truly envy children today, and want to make most of my opportunity to work with them to teach them how to use it.
But I do wonder sometimes, that with such broadened horizons and growing up with technology, how amazing will tomorrow’s creators be?