When I was in first grade, my class participated in a financial education program. We learned about banks, saving money, credit cards, and how to write checks. I have always remembered this experience and thought it was absurd that they taught these things to 6 year olds, but I have always remembered it. I know how to properly write a check – and it is from this 1st grade experience; I was never re-taught how to write a check.
Children are like cute, loud little sponges. They soak up knowledge and hold onto it… forever (often times, whether we want them to or not). Parents have been handed a perfect little golden opportunity on a silver (probably ruined because it has been colored on with a stolen permanent marker) platter to teach our children as much as we can early on, in hopes of molding them into intelligent, successful adults someday.
I came across a news article containing a brilliant, unique learning opportunity for children last night! Linda Liukas, co-founder of Rails Girls and former Codeacademy employee, has written a storybook and supplemental activity workbook to teach children the fundamentals of programming. Liukas studied philosophy, business, French and mechanical engineering in college before teaching herself to program using free websites, following tutorials, and reading books. She co-founded Rails Girls with the mission of enabling women to understand technology and build upon their own ideas and now she is expanding her target audience to our miniature counter-parts. She has “combined software with storytelling” to create a children’s book and supplemental workbook that are aimed at teaching programming fundamentals through stories and kid-friendly activities. While first teaching herself to program, Liukas personified Ruby as a little red-haired girl who goes on adventures searching for gems instead of focusing on Ruby as a language; now, about four years later, “Hello Ruby” is about to be born. The book will be published as a hardcopy along with a workbook for kids to complete activities and draw in. Of course, the book and workbook will also be available in digital copies as well. Linda says:
Hello Ruby will be a classic journey of discovery that teaches the readers about different people working together, how problems can be solved in small sequences and how remixing and sharing helps everyone.
I went to school for chemical engineering and I always wanted to take a programming or intro Computer Science course, but never seemed to find time. After deciding that I wanted to spend my life in Austin, my regret for having never learned how to code has grown. Programming is an incredibly valuable skill in the job market these days. That is not going to change anytime soon. Society is dominated by technology and software. Regardless of your profession, having programming knowledge, even if it is only as a supplemental skill can do nothing but help. The healthcare industry, for example, relies heavily on programming, from the functioning of equipment like ultrasound machines and pacemakers to the charting and medical coding done by doctors, nurses, and billing personnel… meaning even someone entering school with an interest in healthcare, a field of study seemingly unrelated to coding, can benefit from programming skills.
My kids love to color/draw and build things with their Megablocks and Legos. They are also magnetically drawn to my iPhone, their LeapPad, Nook, or anything with a screen and/or buttons. Teaching a child to program or the fundamentals behind programming languages allows them to combine that desire to be creative and build something with their love of electronics. Although I cringe at the thought of when my son will be old enough to want to sit and play video games all day, I can feel much more excited about the thought of him sitting down at a computer to create his own video game or an app for his phone or tablet from scratch. Even if they lose interest in the act of actually programming, learning to program will teach them to think critically, recognize patterns, use logic and reasoning to problem solve – these are the skills that will help them excel in math and science disciplines.
I get really excited when I come across something that I think will be both entertaining for my kids and also very educational. I think “Hello Ruby” is a really novel idea and I will definitely be awaiting the release this fall. I encourage other technical-minded parents to do the same and share other ideas on getting young children involved in science and technology with the rest of us as well.
(Images courtesy of: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lindaliukas/hello-ruby)