Choosing a coding class

Your child has shown an interest in programming and wants to take classes in coding. In the increasingly digital world in which we live, coding is a crucial skill for your child to learn, but with so many classes on offer, how do you choose the right one?

The key for newcomers to coding, especially for younger kids, is to choose a class that is fun and that makes coding as accessible as possible. Find a class that focuses on the creative aspects of coding and one that encourages your child to build things and problem solve. This is how kids learn “computational thinking,” or the ability to tackle large problems by breaking them down into sequences of smaller, more manageable ones.

You might explore classes that teach Scratch, an easy-to-use programming language, the structure of which was inspired by Lego bricks. It was developed by the MIT Media Lab and is aimed specifically at children aged 8 to 16. Many experts recommend this as the best “starter” language for new coders. It appeals to children because it is visual and comes with lots of built-in characters and backgrounds so they simply drag and drop code blocks to start building in an exciting environment. In a Scratch coding class children may learn to make robots move or, as they become more advanced, to design their own video games. Your child will be having fun in these classes but also learning to think logically and mastering the basics of programming.

As your child advances, and if they want to build their own web-based projects, they need to learn more text-based coding. Python is an easy first language to pick up and is a good stepping stone into other programming languages and frameworks (how a web-based application is built). Python is widely used by big companies like Google, Pinterest, Instagram and Disney, to name just a few. Another good language that beginners find easy to learn is Ruby, which was used to create Twitter. It is less complex in terms of code, and helpful for learning the concepts of programming. It can build confidence in a new coder as it will allow them to progress quickly without the huge coding learning curves required for languages like Java or C++, among others.

Once your child starts building web-based programs they will quickly be exposed to other languages such as HTML, Javascript (which is not the same as Java) and CSS.

Talk to your child about exactly which aspects of coding interest them, and try to find a program that is a good fit. A class that your child enjoys will provide a good outlet for creativity, teach persistence in problem solving and encourage logical thinking, while also being fun. And most educators agree that familiarity with coding and programming will only be an asset in the future.

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