As part of Computer Science Education Week, Google today announced its very first kids coding Doodle: a short interactive game designed to teach kids computer programming. A joint project by three teams -- Google Doodle, Google Blockly, and MIT -- the Doodle game teaches kids computational thinking as they guide a cute rabbit through a series of challenges in a quest for carrots.
The Google Doodle celebrates the 50th anniversary of Logo, a groundbreaking kids programming language developed in 1967 by MIT's Wally Feurzeig, Seymour Papert, and Cynthia Solomon. Logo was invented well before the introduction of the personal computer, making it ahead of its time -- preparing for a future in which computer programming would be fundamental to a well-rounded education.
The Doodle also helps kick off Hour of Code, a greater nationwide push to promote kids computer programming in schools. Throughout this week, students around the world will be using their computer lab time to engage in interactive tutorials and games that teach the basic building blocks of coding.
One hour of code is a great starter, and every kid should participate. It should also be just the beginning.
Other countries like the U.K. and Estonia have already added computer science to their mandated curricula for K-12 students. Here in the United States, back in September, President Trump promised a landmark $200 million to the Department of Education for computer science and STEM education in schools. This is a tremendous step in the right direction, and will strengthen the efforts to bring computer science education to every student in the country.
But until we can get computer science into mandated K-12 curricula, here are some things you can do next (and why it's important):
Bring Hour of Code to your home. If your child is participating in Hour of Code this week, ask them about what they learned and encourage them to explore this interest further. If your child's school is not participating, you can still access the tutorials and games offered on the CS Education Week website. Consider making hour of code a family activity, maybe setting aside one night a week to turn off the tv and play a coding game together.
Form an after-school coding club. Consider joining with other parents and your school to set up an after-school coding club so that children can learn to code together. Organizations like Code.org offer several generous grants and provide trainers to help schools put together their own after-school coding clubs. You can also connect with a local coding academy to set up programs at your school, or use online academies with self-guided curricula.
Make it fun. Turn your child's screen time at home into a productive activity by introducing them to the wealth of free kids coding resources online. Sign them up for camps or allow them to self-guide through online tutorials and games to make learning to code interactive and fun.
Our kids are growing up in a fast-paced world of rapid technological change. The way we approach education has to change with the times in order to prepare students for tomorrow's problems and changes.
Recently I read a Facebook post from a fellow entrepreneur that stated: "Every company regardless of industry must become a technology company or die." Considering that computing powers nearly every industry from education to farming, from law to business, and construction to medicine, I think his assessment is spot on.
Teaching our kids coding now will give them a fluency in the systems and architecture of tomorrow's world. From increased focus and concentration to creativity to the ability to problem solve, the skills children learn from coding will aid them in their pursuit of nearly every career path on the planet.