Computer programming has always been termed “rocket science”, a skill reserved for geeks and computer nerds, but this ain’t the case anymore.
It’s now regarded as an essential ability for 21st-century learners and is becoming a key component of many curriculums, even in primary schools.
The idea of teaching coding in school has generated an unprecedented interest across the globe, with studies indicating that it is critically important, both educationally and socially, for students to learn how to code or program starting in Kindergarten. According to research, this is not simply to create a pool of skilled programmers to meet the needs of the future job market; but also learning to code enables children to use digital technology to develop their creativity. It also helps students in our technology-based society move from ‘consumer’ to that of a ‘creator.’ Furthermore, students learn to develop algorithmic thinking, enabling them to better understand, interpret, and assess the impact of such thinking on their lives. Some will even go on to develop and guide the use of algorithms in the world of the future. Coding also trains children to become independent citizens in a world where technology is ubiquitous. Finally, learning to code helps students better understand one aspect of the digital world in which we live and, in some ways, become better prepared for it. In short, this is why coding in school is important. Learning some coding basics at school now appears to be necessary to function in an increasingly digital world.
Before we proceed, we need to understand the minute difference between programming and coding. By the word “to program,” we mean telling a machine, software program or web page what to do – a feat that is accomplished invisibly by the mobile phones, computers and social media we use every day. While coding is often perceived as formulaic and sometimes boring but this couldn’t be further from the truth: it is, in fact, an incredibly creative activity. Coding is simply a language that instructs technology on what to do and how to behave. In actuality, it has become the new pencil and paper – a tool with endless opportunities. It’s what you do with it that matters, and in this digital world, children really can do anything from creating a 2D platform game to writing a program that solves their maths homework. What a great opportunity then to encourage a creative mindset in children.
Here are some ideas for you to strengthen a creative mindset in your students through coding.
Coding to lead to a solution
We all know there is no single way to solve a coding problem. Each of them has its length and execution times, each can handle different exceptions, and each can attack the problem from a different angle. Thus, this flexibility in approaching the problem widens a kid’s thinking skill and improves their creativity level.
Coding develops brain
Coding is extremely helpful in improving analytical, logical thinking, intuitive thinking and imagination and, in turn, develops the brain as a whole. Precisely, coding is an exercise for brain development.
For example, imagine that you are not on your computer and is thinking about a way to calculate the factorial of a number. You can grab a pen and paper and start sketching out a solution, maybe as a flowchart or with pseudocode, known as the lines of code written in the natural language to help illustrate the solution to a problem without writing a specific syntax. Then, you will begin to imagine errors that may arise when you input your solution into a computer, and you will try to handle them. You can do all of this with a pen and paper. This eventually will improve your imagination and, in turn, creativity!
Besides these, you can follow the steps mentioned below.
Create a system to work from
When planning to teach coding, firstly, make your students understand that programming is a unique interaction with a common system. It is how we can make things happen on a screen or with a robot, and creativity is all about finding unique or interesting things. Hence, ask creative artists to work within some systems and do amazing and inventive things.
Focus on skills
While teaching coding, focus on skills. You may have to maintain a daily balance between directions and discovery, support creativity by under-instructing. You may also provide a goal like "create a presentation," and suggest tools to your students and make them think thoroughly; this will ultimately make room for their ideas. And when it comes to assessment, focus on the skills used, not on end the product solely. This will support student’s creativity and keep the focus on what truly matters, i.e. skill-building.
Turn programming into a mode of expression
Approaching programming as a mode of expression is essential to empower children to exercise their creativity. For instance, when we learn to write, we begin with oversimplified diction and progress into writing obtuse and wordy academic prose, day-by-day. Programming requires much the same. So, you may begin programming with a simple approach to help build skill in your students and increase difficulty day by day to help them progress. Soon we progress from drawing hexagons and printing “hello world” to creating games and animations. The good news is that our students are already more familiar with the mentor texts of programming.
Following this approach will bring in many opportunities every day to create meaningful, important work with code and enhance kids’ creative thinking ability. From not knowing how to draw lines, they can create an app as part of project-based learning, write a game the helps practice sight words, or create an interactive web and whatnot. All that they would require is proper guidance and turn this learning into a mode of expression.
Meet students at their interests
It is well-known that programming is the new language of empowered producers. If you want your students to stop playing video games and make something, you need to give them the creative license. It would help if you allowed them to think creatively and bring a change in their world. After all, Creativity is a mindset. Students need to know they can create important things that the world interacts with. They can create something innovative with wool, wood, or lines of code.
Learning alongside your students
To promote creativity with programming, you need to learn alongside your students. Sit down with them and figure out how to make things happen with code. The most important part is to figure it out. Creativity is perseverance at its best. You have to have faith in the process and learn together. Try as many things as you can, like--make animated films, document a Lego build, make a robot dance-- see what sticks and whatnot.
Planning to strengthen your child’s creative mindset? Then, do try these strategies mentioned above.