Every once in a while, a parent will drop off one of their kids for code club while the other kid stays outside. With a smile, I will invite the hiding sibling to come in the room, encouraging and explaining that coding is fun and not as hard as you might think.
Occasionally, the straggling sibling will accept my invitation and give coding a try. But that is pretty rare. More often, the kid stays back, missing a great opportunity to learn something interesting and have fun with peers.
I wonder about this a lot. Why do some kids resist trying computer programming? Could the adults in their life be inadvertently discouraging them from trying coding? How can I pique their interest?
After studying the dynamics of this situation and speaking with the parents, I believe I have discovered part of the problem: people believe coding is an “all or nothing” proposition. They think, “I’m not technical,” or “my kid isn’t into computers,” and assume coding is not for them.
This is in start contrast to how people think about other things. Can you imagine what would happen if people decided not to learn how to read because they don’t consider themselves a future literature professor?
Maybe you’ve run into the same thing with your coding programs, or any other tech-related activity.
I have been experimenting with an analogy that helps parents understand the importance of ALL their kids learning to code, not just the ones that look like this.
The logic goes like this:
Parent: “My kid is not a computer person.”
Me: “Do you sign your kids up for sports or music?”
Parent: “Yes, they play basketball.”
Me: “OK, that’s awesome! Since your kids are ‘basketball people,’ you probably expect them to grow up to be professional basketball players right?”
Parent: “No are you crazy? I just want them to learn things like teamwork, perseverance, and effort, and have fun while they do it.”
Me: “Interesting…so you are saying basketball is good for people who are not ‘born’ basketball prodigies?”
Me: “And even if they don’t dedicate their life to it, your kids will benefit from playing basketball?”
Me: “So maybe basketball could be part of a ‘well-balanced diet’ of activities that encourage learning and growth?”
Parent:”OK I get it! My kid should try coding.”
Maybe I am being a little annoying about it, but I really believe that every kid should at least get the chance to try coding. Maybe they will like it so much that they grow up to work at Facebook, or start the next billion dollar company. Or perhaps they will use their coding skills to get A’s on school projects, make fun websites, and one day automate the boring parts of their job.
Either way, learning some code provides many of the benefits of sports and music – positive social interaction, rational problem solving, computational thinking, growth mindset…the list goes on and on. Coding is no longer the domain of geeky boys in a basement full of radio shack machines (interesting story about that). It is part of a well-balanced diet, strengthening both cognitive and non-cognitive abilities and helping prepare people for success in any field.
Everyone can benefit from learning how to code, and I hope we adults can avoid accidentally limiting the young minds around us.