Getting a Head Start in Coding
In today’s age, it’s almost impossible to imagine any person or organization working without computers. They are an inseparable part of the modern-day world. Fast and accurate computer-operated machines are slowly replacing human workforce everywhere. It is, therefore, exceedingly useful if not extremely important to know coding. And often, the best coders are those who start young. At a young age, children grasp things better. If they are introduced to coding concepts in a simplified manner, they stay interested in it as they grow older. It paves the way for them to learn more advanced concepts and become technically sound. Tim Cook, the Apple CEO, while stressing on the importance of learning to code at a young age said, “Teaching kids to code is just as important as teaching them any other language and the earlier they start learning it, the better.” Having begun coding at an early age, I wish to share this experience and help others get a head start in coding when they are young.
So, the question that arises is at what age should one begin? It is something that is highly debatable. Some say that children should start as early as possible. They should get an experience in coding and find how much it interests them before they start thinking that coding is not cool or nerdy because of the way society describes it.
Some; however, are of the opinion that toddlers should not learn to code. They may face unnecessary pressure to succeed in the world and will have to cope with something they might not enjoy. It is no mystery that it takes good comprehension ability to learn coding, something which children don’t develop at an early age.
Ideally, young children should only learn coding if they enjoy it or are keen or enthusiastic about it. There is no necessity or obligation as such to start early if one is not interested. In pre-teenage years, there is little one can learn in coding but it is enough to develop an interest. Early teenage could also be a great time to learn coding. It is an ideal age to learn more than just simple coding concepts.
How to Begin?
When those unfamiliar with coding hear about it, the first picture that comes to their mind is building fancy Android applications or games. Most children begin learning coding with the enthusiasm of developing their application. That was the motivation for me as well. And when one begins coding, they are bewildered by the unfamiliar words and syntax. The prospect of writing ten lines of ugly code just to get the computer to print “Hello, World!” can be quite abhorrent. Hence, I would advise: Start with a simple and uncomplicated language. It will help you learn the essence of coding without having to worry about the structure, syntax and other details that are unimportant initially. Ideally, you should understand how a computer functions. You should learn to think like a computer and solve a problem like a computer. This will help you in building algorithms. This is the first think you ought to learn when you begin coding. There are numerous languages which will serve this purpose.
However easy the language, coding can initially be a bit deterring especially because of the difference between the glamorous picture we have of coding and what it is. Indeed, technology in its nakedness can be quite ugly. So, one should maintain the zeal for learning past the unpleasant initial phase. It is important to continue this journey that you started.
What to Learn?
As I mentioned earlier, initially, the focus should be on learning the logic of computers and how to build algorithms. The best way for beginners is to build programs for performing simple mathematical tasks such as finding the GCD/LCM of two numbers, finding whether a number is prime and so on. At a young age, one is familiar with the steps involved in doing these operations and must try to translate these steps into an algorithm for the computer. This way, they will learn how to build algorithms for simple tasks. Then one can delve further into more complex entities of programming such as functions, classes and so on. These concepts are a bit abstract and can be difficult to understand. There’s little that children know to correlate these concepts to something, and so it can be a bit difficult. The best way is to realize the usefulness of these is through some good examples.
The Available Resources
There are numerous options and of late, there has been a significant rise in the resources for children to learn programming. If you want to just learn simple coding concepts, there’s Google’s Made with Code Projects, Scratch by MIT Media Labs and Tynker’s hour of code. If you want to learn an actual programming language, then it should be a simple and uncomplicated one. Microsoft Small Basic, Python, and BASIC are some good ones, to begin with. Python is highly recommended as it is not so complex and very useful.
Practice is the Key
With programming, you keep becoming better as you practice more and more. You can pick programs from books or online coding competitions. As you get more comfortable with the entire idea, you could also take up projects or learn about controlling devices using code. It is also something valuable to learn and could be especially useful if you wish to pursue engineering. It is important to have some continuity in your learning. You shouldn’t just stop at a certain point. You could move to advanced concepts or other languages. Either ways, keep coding!
Coding is a fun and rewarding hobby to develop and one of the best things you will learn at a young age. Apart from the fact that it teaches you how to control computers, it helps you become more logical and organized in general. As Steve Jobs put it – “Everyone should learn how to program a computer, because it teaches you how to think!”
Along with coding, there’s also a lot of excitement about web designing among the youth. Read here about what exactly a web designer does.