A simplified definition of computational thinking is “a set of problem solving methods that involve expressing problems and their solutions in ways that a computer could execute.” Upon further exploration, you may find the specifics of this definition a bit intimidating. Let me quickly further summarize it for you:
It is not simply the computer science; it is the related “thought process.” Computational thinking is breaking down a complex problem into smaller parts, looking for similarities within these parts while focusing on only relevant information and developing a step-by-step solution to the problem in a way that a computer and/or person can understand. Although there are literally hundreds of activities your children can pursue to develop both their problem-solving and logic, learning to code is a wonderful way to teach children computational thinking skills.
Why are coding and computational thinking skills so important? I would argue that both coding education and computational thinking should not simply be viewed as important to our children’s intellectual development, but as necessary life skills. Current research continues to show that in the near future, this type of knowledge will be important to our children in anything career path they want to pursue. Computational thinking skills are fundamental skills for all, not just computer scientists.
Coding is a tool that both encourages and cultivates so much in our children. Creativity, analytical ability, critical thinking and collaboration are some of the soft skills that learning to code will enhance. Current research underscores that students who have learned to code are significantly better prepared for the challenges of their personal and professional lives. It is as simple as that!
It is also of critical importance to urge BOTH our girls and boys to learn to code and develop their computational thinking skills. In many cases there remains a discrepancy in these abilities with regard to gender, but recent studies have shown that this imbalance is not related to aptitude but rather cultural factors. As parents, we need to make sure we educate and encourage our girls that the development of these skills is equally important to them! They, too, should be interested and engaged.
Our job remains to encourage our children’s interest in these areas to help prepare them for today as well as the future. Starting early, as with the development of any skill, is critical. We are fortunate that, currently, there variety of products and activities available to help expand our children’s knowledge. I also continue to feel that whatever avenue you pursue for your child to learn these skills, that learning through play and “by doing” is one of the most effective paths to productive learning. I have found that entertaining AND educational is the most effective combination in any sort of curriculum.
It is my belief that computational thinking skills and coding education is critical to our children today and for their future. Currently, our children’s technology knows much more about them than they know about it. As an innovator in the tech space and a mother of a ten year old, my personal mission remains to enable a new generation to feel empowered by technology and feel comfortable in being proactive with it, rather than being beholden to it and consuming it passively. Teaching our children to code and cultivating their computational skills is invaluable to achieving this.