Computer education for kids.
Computer education for our kids
The government has recently re-introduced policy concerning the teaching of mandatory Asian languages for our school children. It is all well and good to learn a foreign language, but is it really the most important language our children should be learning?
Ask a school student what language computers use and they will most probably look at you like you are some sort of freak and have no idea what you are talking about. From grade 1 now kids are being taught to use computers. They are using them to learn to read, learn math and all sorts of subjects. The one subject that seems totally lacking in our school systems is the teaching of the basics of computer languages and what computers really are.
Did you know you can build a smart phone from parts available from an electronics store? Not only that, but there is a whole community of programmers that freely post the code to help you to program and use the components. Did you know you can make a fully functional computer from the component level for under $100.00? Did you know many popular websites such as Facebook, Twitter, etc can easily be reproduced using fairly basic computer programming skills?
Tech grows on Apple Trees
Our children are leaving school knowing almost nothing about the structure of basic technology we use everyday. The reason for this is very very simple. They are not being taught about it. While we talk about Asian languages being very important for future business dealings. It is the technology sector which is growing faster then any other sector ever know to the human race. Some schools require students to have an ipad or some other mobile computer device for school learning. I would much rather my child be taught to make the Ipad and be able to program the Ipad and understand the Ipad is not some device grown on magical Apple trees.
Learning about computer languages and basic electronic componentry is at the best a one subject elective, that has a very limited learning outcome for students. School students have a much better learning capability then we are currently teaching them. I remember high-school mathematics. Algebra was far more complicated then most computer languages or micro-electronic concepts. Mathematics and computer languages are such a similar subject it would make sense to teach them as a combined subject. Computer languages are an algebraic form of communication. Whats more computer languages are more structured and easier to comprehend and easier to visualise an outcome for then traditional mathematics teaching.
Computers more imaginative then other languages
A lot of the teaching philosophies in schools is about making things fun. If you make them fun to do, kids will want to do it and want to learn. I think making things fun is a bit off the mark. Making learning rewarding would be more to the point. It is easy to see that when a child is rewarded for something they have done, they will try to do their best and actually want to learn.
Computer programming and electronics is very rewarding! Even simple electronic projects such as hooking a battery to a light bulb and watching the bulb light up gives the child the reward and makes them want to learn more. Writing a simple computer program and seeing it work is a great boost to confidence. I do not think you can compare this to winning at a computer game, even if it is an educational game. Games encourage kids to be users and not really think about what is possible and use their imaginations. Yes computer programming is highly imaginative. If you can imagine something, you can create it!
What is the outcome?
What is the outcome? In education it is important to look at the outcome. Learning to read and write at school obviously gives you the most important skills of being able to learn from others and share. Math is an extremely important subject. Math gives the ability to perform tasks in all manner of life. Computer programming and electronics as a subject gives you the ability to make the computer do what you want it to do. It gives you the ability to design and make electronic components never before though of. It gives you an understanding of what your computer is doing when you use facebook. It makes a generation of our children more then tech savvy. It makes them able to flourish and be involved in the technology revolution and not just users or watchers.
Computer programming and electronic design is taught at University's. Why teach school children? Sure the electronics and computer programming skills are taught at Universities. They are taught to a small minority of people who might go on to use the skills in some way. The point is that these skills are not hard to learn. They should not be available to only a small minority. The skills can be used by people going straight from school into the workforce. If computer skills were taught on a higher level at schools, this would impact all other tertiary courses and workplaces across the nation. Computer languages are not hard to learn. In fact they usually have under 100 keywords in their languages. Our children need the skills earlier then past generations as technology is changing faster then ever before.