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OPLIN 4cast #544: Coding at an early age

Posted in 4cast

Back in January, the American Library Association published a report [pdf] on the activities of school and public libraries aimed at teaching children to write computer code. The report focused on children of school age, but in the marketplace you can find books and educational toys that teach coding to children as young as 3 years old. Is there really an advantage to starting children on coding this early? Does your library have coding books or activities for preschoolers?

  • Coding class, then naptime: Computer science for the kindergarten set (NPR | Anya Kamenetz)  “‘If we were teaching coding like reading and math, we would break it down into bite-size chunks, make it more fun with songs and stories, and give students two decades to reach mastery,’ [entrepreneur Grant] Hosford says. ‘With coding we throw you in the deep end in high school or college and are surprised when most kids drown.’ According to this thinking, the skill sets required for coding and the three Rs will all reinforce each other.”
  • Robot storytime: Coding for preschoolers (Programming Librarian | Jenn Carson)  “For our first two programs we invited children ages 5 to 10 and their families, but we got kids as young as 3 who came, just to test it out. The older kids helped the younger kids (and the parents!). Our next step will be to introduce Cubetto to our younger set at a preschool storytime and to do some outreach by bringing Cubetto to our local daycares.”
  • How will next-gen workers learn? Look to preschool (Talent Economy | Lauren Dixon)  “But is coding at 4 years old too early? ‘I think the idea of having preschoolers learn coding is pretty crazy,’ said Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education research institution in Washington, D.C., adding that the skills should be learned at an older age. However, teaching children to code early on lends them more time to build on that basic education, potentially creating a generation that contains more highly educated computer scientists than we have now.”
  • Why children should NOT be taught to code (David Buckingham)  “The argument [that coding is a means of teaching logical thinking] depends upon assumptions about learning transfer – the idea that learning in one context will automatically transfer across to others. This is to conceive of the brain as a kind of muscle: a good workout in the coding gym will have payoffs when we need our logical thinking skills to solve problems elsewhere. Similar claims are often made for learning the game of chess, or Latin. Yet there is no convincing evidence that learning computer programming enables children to develop more general problem-solving skills, let alone that it will ‘teach you how to think’, as its advocates claim.”

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