There were many great talks at Strange Loop but perhaps the one that hit closest to my heart was Sarah Allen’s talk, “Teaching Code Literacy”. I’ve got 3 kids (5, 7, and 8) and they are about the age I was when I started programming (Logo and Basic).
Kids growing up today are surrounded by screens – phones, ipads, laptops, etc. They will use them for reading, communicating, working, EVERYTHING. They are so ubiquitous they are almost (but not yet) invisible to them and they’ll be there soon. It kills me that they (that any kid) should not have a sense of what’s happening behind that app on a phone. Imagine that Siri came into existence when you were 5 and where things will be when you leave college.
Programming teaches so many generic and critical skills – the ability to break down a problem and enumerate the steps to a solution, the ability to look at multiple instances and derive a pattern, the need to think at multiple levels at the same time, etc. I’d love to give my kids experience with that. I don’t expect any of them to be professional programmers when they grow up, but I sincerely think learning how to program would be invaluable. Plus, it’s fun!
I tweeted after Sarah’s very inspiring talk that I wanted to challenge every Strange Loop attendee to teach a child to program before Strange Loop 2012. I mean that – there are many opportunities to teach a class at your kid’s school, or at an organization like ByteWorks, or a community college, or even just to your own kid!
In the spirit of taking my own challenge, I’m starting a 4 week class in Processing for 10 kids this coming Sunday and really looking forward to it. I hope more people take me up on it and we can have discussions about your experiences and ways to do more next year.