Computer programming is the method of designing executable computer programs from an initial formulation of a computing issue. Analysis, development of understanding, generation and verification of algorithms, and finally implementation of algorithms in a target programming language, also known as coding, are all part of programming. In today’s world, electronic devices, such as smartphones and other programmable devices, are widely used. As a result, learning how to use and use these devices is critical, especially for the younger generation. We will discuss the value of teaching children computer programming in elementary and middle school, as well as the approaches that schools use to teach them at various stages in their education, in this article. Following the advancement of technology in the world, the down of computers has brought about a revolution in many sectors of life including the education sector. In part of education, computers have greatly changed the mode of teaching (Nelson & Braafladt, 2012). In today’s world learning computer programming as become a requirement as it applies to almost all aspects of life. The question is why we should be teaching computer in elementary school. The most common answer to this question is jobs but not necessarily traditional computing or programming jobs. The world today is full of advancement in the technological era, and we’ll need people who can think like software engineers and network architects, whether they are writing an app or solving a resource distribution problem in a third world setting or doing both at the same time.
The main idea of teaching computer programming to children in elementary schools and middle school goes well beyond career development. For kids who have just entered school, teaching programming is about giving them the thinking skills that will help them become active learners and citizens as opposed to just consumers and dwellers in the world of advancement in technology and digital era. Computer programming in today’s world should become a requirement just like reading and writing (porter, 2016). By introducing computer coding or programming in elementary and middle schools enables the students to have right tools to become successful in the era of advancement in technology.
Learning how to code will significantly increase the mathematical ability of a child. This skill to code has been linked with the general mathematical ability. Therefore, learning how to program at an early age helps a child to develop the skill of working out a mathematical problem with ease. Coding also plays a crucial role in improving the memory capacity of children (porter, 2016). In the course of learning it, programming is an intense memory activity, since it requires high concentration and the skill to manipulate numbers at the same time.
Programming has become one of the world’s most common and used language.In this era of fast growing technology, coding has become a new language. Nearly all fields today depend on a program developed or a programmer for success. Apart from coding taking over as the communication language, pupils who are introduced to the world of programming at an early stage have the assurance of getting a well-paying job in the future.
After intensive research, it was clear that children from schools which teach computer programming performed better than children from schools which rarely taught these programs. This difference is because the mental capability computer programming students were better off than their counterparts. These children have developed a large memory capacity, and they found it easier to think and tackle problems at the same time. Coding was the motivating factor behind their success; coding is an empowering skill since it built the confidence and creativity of pupils. Children introduced to programming early have the advantage over other pupils they have a new avenue to express and create new interesting ideas. These avenues are rewarding. Programming also has the fun part of it, besides the practical reasons for learning how to program, the process of creation of a game or animation can be a real fun especially to kids. As the technology advances, also computer programs also changes and it’s always advisable to move on and adjust to the new technology. Some general knowledge of computer programming like C++ has depreciated in its usefulness, and it can’t be compared to new emerging improved programmers like Alice. The following survey was carried out to compare the validity of the two programs
In a research, an experiment was carried out to investigate the feasibility of using Alice to teach students the programming concepts. The subjects were 166 10th –grade students from two intact classes. Alice was taught to one randomly selected class, and another class was taught C++, both for seven weeks. The programming constructs students learned included arithmetic expressions, selection structures, variables, and built-in functions and repetition structures. An analysis of scores clearly indicated that Alice group performed well than the C++ group. Then it was concluded that Alice seemed to be more effective in facilitating student’s comprehension of fundamental programming concepts. Therefore students should also be equipped with the effective skills in computer programming.
The method which most schools use to introduce children to the computer world is through Logo. The logo is a language that was specifically designed to introduce children to programming. The first part of it deals with turtle graphics. It was derived from turtle robots used as early as 1969with proto-logo. With the advancement in technology, an abstract drawing device, referred to as the turtle, has been used to make programming for children more attractive by concentrating on doing turtle graphics. Seymour Papert argued that activities like writing would naturally be learned by much younger people provided that they have adopted a computing culture. The logo was not only designed to teach children programming and computing concept but also to enhance a child’s well-being in a culture increasingly dominated by technology. The logo has been used in educating children as young as 3 and has a track record of 30 years of success in education.
Another method of teaching the young students coding is through Tinker Games; this age-appropriate game is used to teach elementary students coding concept. It ranges from Puppy Adventure to Math Art and Maze Craze; all games that students from grade 1-8 enjoy most are found here. Tynker also has a curriculum and STEM product library which students may peruse if they are interested in combining programming with social studies, math, science and English.
Hopscotch; this is a free iPad app for upper elementary and above. According to Wesley Fryer, curated resources for Hopscotch can be used in a classroom full of challenges with the students. He also recommends that it is important to activate the Emoji keyboard for use with the programmer.
Research that was conducted in Britain showed that children are taught computer programming differently at different stages of their education (Hammond, 2013). The following is the three distinct stages for new computing curriculum that was introduced in British schools.
Key stage 1 (5-6 year-olds)
The children will be learning what algorithms are; this will not always involve computers. Teachers may illustrate algorithms that have been referred to as the set of instructions by using recipes, or by breaking down the steps of children’s morning routines. In doing this, they will also be creating and debugging simple programs of their own, increasing logical reasoning skills and taking their first move in using devices to create, arrange, store and manipulate and retrieve digital content.
Key stage 2 (7-11-year-old)
Children at this juncture will be building and debugging more complicated programs with specific goals. These will involve getting to grips with concepts that include variables and ‘sequence, selection, and repetition in programs.’ At this stage, they will focus mainly on developing their logical reasoning skills and learning how to use websites and other internet services. More practice in collecting, analyzing and presenting data is also a requirement at this stage.
Key stage 3 (11-14yaer-old)
On entering a senior school, children will be using two or more programming languages and at least one which will enable them to create their programs. Here schools and teachers are free to choose the specific languages and coding tools. At this stage students will be learning simple Boolean logic, working with binary numbers and studying how computer hardware and software work together.
At all these three levels, children will also be learning safety measures about computer and the internet and how to report concerns or contact online.
As the advancement in technology still continues, the ability to work with ease using the computer and other electronic devices is very essential. The field of learning has turned its attention to matters involving mental flexibility, logical thinking, organization, and problem-solving. Hence, parents are required to encourage their children the need to learn how to program early for their lives tomorrow. Moreover, it is advisable to start teaching computer programming in middle and elementary schools, because children have an easier time of learning skills than adults. Countries should revise their curriculum and introduce coding into their syllabus at an early stage. A good example is the United Kingdom which has already adapted these school curriculum. This computer programming will benefit children because their minds are flexible and open to learning new things. In my opinion, parents of every child in every school at every level should advocate the need for all students to learn how to code. They need these skills not necessarily as a career but because it impacts every career in this world of 21st century. Any nation recognizing that will benefit in the long run.
Hammond, M. (2013). Introducing ICT in schools in England: Rationale and consequences. British Journal of Educational Technology, 45(2), 191-201. doi:10.1111/bjet.12033
Nelson, J., & Braafladt, K. (2012). Technology and Literacy: 21st-century library programming for children and teens. Chicago, IL: American Library Association.
Porter, J. (2016, July 17). 4 Benefits of learning programming at a young age. Retrieved Feb. 17, 2017, from https://elearningindustry.com/4-benefits-learning-programming-at-a-young-age-2
Villavicencio, A., Poibeau, T., Korhonen, A., & Alishahi, A. (2015). Cognitive aspects of computational language acquisition. Berlin, Germany: Springer Berlin.