My Kids Are Learning to Code At School, As a Small Business Owner and Parent, What Should I know?
In the final year of the last century, my firstborn came into the world. It was also the glimmering dawn of the digital epoch. Broadband heralded the new millennium, and Apple launched iTunes and the iPod a year later. When my first child was born, you couldn’t download an “app” from an “app store” and global internet traffic was a mere 0.34 exabytes. When my child turned ten, the internet had grown 500 fold with internet traffic reaching 175 exabytes. Five years later and the internet was four times larger again with global internet traffic at 767 exabytes. That’s the equivalent of 12 billion DVDs crossing the internet every month.
The Zettabyte Era
This year, my daughter will turn seventeen, and the internet will enter the zettabyte era. By the time my darling daughter turns 20, the internet will have doubled in size again and will pass 2 zettabytes. A zettabyte is 1,000 exabytes which is 1,000 petabytes, which is 1,000 terabytes which is 1,000 gigabytes. It’s a lot of bytes. It’s a lot of data.
My daughter grew up alongside the emerging technologies of cloud, social media, mobile data and the internet. She will enter the workforce as a digital ambassador, comfortable with technology and the cloud, at ease with subscribing to services rather than owning, willing to try new applications and different ways of doing things with a positive, fail fast attitude. She does not fear technology.
The Coding Generation
It will be utterly, completely irreversibly different for children born this year as they enter a world which has moved into a higher digital gear. The new emerging technologies – artificial intelligence, machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT), Virtual Reality (VR), driverless and digital cars – will ensure that this generation will be fully immersed in data from the moment they are born.
Unlike my daughter’s generation, who understand these technologies enough to use them, this generation will be digital creators who will need to be more in control in this forever changing digital world. They will need to understand the language of computers. They will need to learn to code.
What is coding?
To code is to tell machines what to do. Code is a string of typed instructions a computer follows to do simple tasks like showing a word like “turn left” on a screen, to steering a drone through the air.
Just as years of compulsory English lessons failed to make novelists of most of us, coding lessons in school will not turn every child into a programmer. But coding will give children the ability to think logically, to cope with uncertainty and to think computationally.
Computational thinking is the ability to break down tasks into a logical sequence of smaller steps, discarding unnecessary elements, diagnosing errors and inventing new approaches when the first inevitably fails.
“Everyone should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.” – Steve Jobs
Coding will become a feature of Queensland’s primary school education system when the national digital technologies curriculum is rolled out in the next few years. What does this mean for Small Business owners who are parents of small children?
For Small Business Owners who are Parents
Parents will be expected to help their kids as they learn to code. This is scary. This is not the world we grew up in. We learned English, maths, and science, not coding and computational thinking.
- Learn: there are plenty of videos and materials on the interweb on coding for kids. The BBC education website is a good starting point. This will also help you in running your business to understand what applications do and how they work.
- Use: Teach yourself how to do simple coding. Hour of Code is an excellent starter coding lesson. More than 140 million adults worldwide have downloaded it. Scratch is also good as it’s what most children will use to learn to code. As a business owner with an overview of coding, your directions to web developers are likely to be more succinct and accurate.
- Embrace: If you want to learn to code, try Codecademy or Code School, both of which offer free coding lessons for grown-ups in a wide variety of coding languages. This will keep you ahead of your children’s coding learning curve for the years of their schooling. Also, as a business owner, there simply aren’t enough developers in the world. Could it become another revenue stream?
The benefits of involving yourself in coding as a parent are clear. You’ll understand it so will be less apprehensive in supporting your children as they learn to code. You will learn a new skill, and you will be able to engage with your digitally immersed children. The opportunity to learn, use and embrace coding is in front of you. Seize it.
“The opinions expressed by Smallville Contributors are their own, not those of www.smallville.com.au"
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