The digitization of information has bolstered the productivity of the economy and society—be it in the public or private sector, said Bitange Ndemo of news and analysis website The Conversation, via The Next Web, a website and annual series of conferences dedicated to new technology and start-up companies in Europe.
Special skills such as computer programming will be needed to acclimate ourselves to the digital economy. Programming is akin to a language of numbers known as code. Code allows us to write instructions to allow the computers to execute it. Coding also helps us create a webpage, an image, or a piece of software.
Canadians’ Perceptions of Coding and Digital Technologies
Actua, a venture capital firm, surveyed 1,500 young Canadians and their parents and caregivers about how important they believe coding and digital literacy will be in education and work and how they feel about coding, digital literacy, and careers that involve these skills. The survey also tackled their confidence in their coding and digital skills and their perception of whether they would have opportunities to hone their coding and digital skills to become successful in the economy and society.
When asked “How important do you think knowing how to use digital technologies will be to future careers,” 92% of students and parents/guardians believed it will be very or extremely important for future careers. 66% of young Canadians were somewhat more likely than their parents and guardians (57%) to say that knowing how to use digital technologies will be “extremely important.”
41% of boys believed that it is extremely important to know how to program, design, and make content for digital technologies will be for future careers while 35% of girls shared the same sentiment. More female parents/guardians (30%) than male parents/guardians (27%) said it is extremely important.
When asked how interested the respondents are in careers that involve digital technologies like phones, tablets, and computers, 40% of boys and 27% of girls said they are extremely interested. Likewise, 32% of boys and 30% of girls answered very interested. However, more girls (11%) than boys (4%) said they are not very interested and 3% of girls (versus 1% of boys) answered not at all interested.
31% of boys and 29% of girls said they are somewhat interested in careers that involve coding or programming. Meanwhile, 33% of girls and 16% of boys said they are not very interested. When asked about their perceptions of coding, 87% of boys and 74% of girls said it is cool. The respondents also found coding to be interesting (73% of boys and 58% of girls), important (75% and 61%), and difficult (42% and 56%).
When asked about their confidence in their coding and programming skills, 43% of boys and 41% of girls said they are not confident of their abilities. Both groups said they are not confident at all (16% and 31%) or are somewhat confident of their coding and programming skills (31% and 22%).
Only 10% of boys and 6% of girls were totally confident of their skills. The report concluded that coding instruction should be offered in and outside of school, especially to girls and young people from lower-income and lower-education households.
What Is Coding?
Coding is a language that works with zeros and ones in which strings of numbers represent an alphabet. Kids can learn how to code too, not just adults. In fact, some countries like Australia and Finland have created a coding curriculum for kids between five and 16 years old. There are different types of coding languages—some are easy for children to learn. Visual programming languages like Scratch have been developed to help kids code using images, signs, and diagrams. Children can also use Python, Ruby, and Go for coding.
What Are the Advantages of Coding?
Kids can have a competitive advantage in the workforce and coding can also enhance their creativity unlike other forms of numeric sciences. Coding builds logical thinking as it pushes the person to solve challenges and teaches children to assess situations from different vantage points and formulate creative solutions. Coding also teaches kids to work out mistakes if their ideas did not work upon testing.
Paul Goldberg told the Education Development Center, a non-profit organization, that programming teaches young children (and students) how to edit, refine, and persist to create something new and interesting. Moreover, coding helps kids find structure in tasks, divide big tasks into smaller ones, test and debug, generalize, and build logic— which is broadly called “computational thinking,” said Goldberg.
Should Young Students Learn Computer Programming?
Goldberg agreed that students should learn computer programming. However, they should learn it “not for the sake of becoming future computer programmers.” According to Goldberg, computational thinking, as well as the need and desire to create things, will help kids remain relevant and in-demand when they enter the workforce.
Further, computers are playing a much more prominent role in our daily lives. Goldberg perceived learning to program not only as an essential skill, but about utilizing technology to develop a new app or a software or create a virtual model that no has created yet.
How Accessible Is Coding?
Computers and smartphones are tools that will help an individual learn how to code, which is why access and affordability of these devices are important. Governments must invest in broadband to enable the high-speed transmission of large volumes of data.
Additionally, they should offer subsidies or avoid taxing information and communications technology (ICT) tools to allow more children to learn coding at home or at school. In Kenya, for example, the government has launched the Digital Literacy Program which would bring broadband to schools while integrating technology into learning.
The Ever-Evolving Programming Language
Programming languages are constantly evolving like all languages and dialects, reminded Elizabeth Armstrong Moore of the World Economic Forum, an independent international organization. In the future, programming language will become more intuitive as computers become smarter.
Neil Fraser, one of Blocky’s developers, said to monthly American magazine Wired, “From Assembly, to Fortran, to C++, to Python, to Blockly, each generation gets to use an even-higher-level interface. Eventually, one will be able to instruct computers with completely natural language.”
Coding will play a more significant role at school or at work. Children should learn to code to build new skills and foster computational thinking. However, affordability and accessibility to digital technologies should be addressed before digitizing our society.