Kids online coding classes have grown in popularity over the past few years. Some of the growth can be attributed to the Hour of Code program and the proliferation of free platforms such as KhanAcademy. While these programs can provide a great introduction to computer programming, they also lack a number of important features that we think are necessary to help create the next generation of effective independent computer programmers.
So how can we bring effective kids coding to homes and schools in a scalable way? In this article, we’ll look at four ways that we think can revolutionize kids online coding classes and help our students get a head start in one of the most important disciples of the future.
1. Learn from real engineers
Learning computer programming can be challenging, and there are many times in the process when it is necessary to seek help from a teacher or mentor who knows how to code. Most kids online programming courses are set up to minimize this need, but in the meantime they remove some of the most impactful ways to teach kids coding.
99% of kids online coding courses do not include support from live engineers. In school environments, it’s even more rare. The big elephant in the room is that it’s hard to find enough engineers to work in companies worldwide, and almost impossible to find computer programmers that are willing to travel to schools and private homes for consistent coding courses.
But what if a highly trained, skilled engineer could interact with students during a self-paced online course? What if the instructor could connect using messaging and live screenshare similar to the way that high end tech support companies currently provide services? In our eyes, this blended learning model is the future of computer science education, and will become commonplace in the coming years as kids online coding classes become mainstream.
2. Use Real Programming Languages
Kids online coding classes typically teach young learners using a visual block method that eliminates the need for typing. While drag and drop methods can certainly reduce frustration for students ages 7 and younger, they were also designed as training wheels that students outgrow. Many of these same courses continue to use drag and drop tools throughout middle school and high school, when students are often ready for real languages as young as age 7 and 8.
3. Use Real Tools and Environments
The vast majority of online kids coding classes use closed platforms that create an “on rails” experience that reduces mistakes. The primary reason that the creators do this is to try and eliminate the need for teachers with engineering background. But using real coding environments and tools carries tremendous benefit. For one, kids get to use the same tools that are used at big companies like Google, Facebook, Intel, and more. This gives students real 21st century skills and helps them gain confidence with tools that are normally not introduced until college. Secondly, by using real environments kids will almost certainly develop the ability to debug their code, which is quite important. Using real coding tools and environments is the best way to create independent coders who are capable of building software.
4. Teach Kids How to Make Real Game and Apps
It is very easy to get students to try kids online coding classes, but very challenging to keep them interested. The best kids coding classes teach kids how to create things that they are already interested in like Minecraft mods, video games, and apps. Engaging a student’s imagination and creating the association between coding and creativity is a highly effective way of keeping kids interested enough to put up with many of the challenges and frustrations that come with software development.
Kids online coding courses have come along way since the days of the old school “Hello World” approach. While visual block and closed platform courses can be fun, easy, and often free ways to give kids an introduction to computer programming, the use of live engineers, real languages and professional tools can help students take their skills to the next level. And this new generation of kids who have grown up immersed in technology are better and faster than ever at taking this leap. We believe that this approach can revolutionize computer programming instruction and bring the highest level of instruction possible to both the home marketplace as well as to schools and districts.