I hear around me constantly – at work, in research papers, on Twitter and social media – that coding for children is the way of the future. But is it really? It certainly could be but I just didn’t know enough about the value coding has for our young people to know if the movement to raise young coders is about preparing a workforce, or offering a new opportunity for them to view and understanding the contemporary world they live in…maybe both, I suppose.
So the other week I purchased an Ozo bot for my 7-year-old son, Jack, as a Christmas gift. It was too good a deal not to pass on and it has a Groot skin on it, ta boot! He had a phenomenal Kindergarten teacher, Mr. Hyde, who has his MEd in Educational Technology and is a whiz at incorporating fun and meaningful tech learning opportunities for the little ones at his home school. It was through Mr. Hyde that Jack first learned about and played around with Ozobots. Jack fell in love. He was engaged and curious…Y’all know how much a love when kids are curious. He tried to explain everything he understood about how they worked to me, but having no coding experience I didn’t really know how to make sense of the details he was giving me. That was last year. We’ve seen them around town in a few places and he always notices them and starts into telling me how cool they are each time. We’ve even sat down to check out kids using them on YouTube. So, I ceased the opportunity when I saw one and didn’t have the boys underfoot keeping a watchful eye on me in the toy store.
Now I have this feeling like I have a responsibility to learn what I can so that we can play and learn together when he unboxes it Christmas morning.
Before I dig into how they work I wanted to first understand why coding for kids is a positive thing…or rather, if it is. Why would I want my 7-year-old to have access to another device?…and that said, we are mindful of exposure to tech vs. self-directed play and exploration. Do we want to introduce more gadgets?
I dug around the interweb and read everything I could. I watch a few videos and poked here and there. Brian Aspinall sees to have put together what I think is a comprehensive – but not unnecessarily a cumbersome list of WHY kids should code.
In Aspinall YouTube video titled 10 Reasons Kids should Lear to Code, he makes the case for just that.
He says coding teach kids to…
- Visualize abstract concepts. They learn to apply problem-solving strategies to abstract concepts, & math to real life situations.
- Understand the vaule of planning, which helps develop writing skills.
- Expand creativity through experimentation.
- Build confidence through the problem-solving process.
- Naturally, develop better focus and organization skills as they develop more complicated code.
- Develop perseverence and resilience by working through the inevitable problem of debugging.
- Learn a new language which strengthens verbal and written skills.
- Become empowered to make a difference. They have an opportunity to spread postive messages through their coding.
- Develope a base knowledge of literacy in the digital age.
- Accel at any opportunity. With a high demand skill, the world is their oyster!
And check out this 11-year-old cool kid, Krish Merah, who gave a talk at TEDxKentState about his experience developing an app…using…you guessed it, code! He says as explains code as the language computers understand (there are different kinds codes), similarly to the languages we each speak and understand (…as are there many). He says coding is the 4th literacy. He talks about how to integrate coding into classroom curriculum. He’s sure it’ll spark interest and breath life into the ideas that are sitting in the back of students heads. A well spent 7 minutes.
Ok, so I think I understand the value of coding. Not as a marketplace skills necessity but as a way to foster confidence and self-growth through problem-solving, planning, and abstract thinking.
Now on to the HOW.
How do these zoomy little Ozobots scoot around with the basic coding inputs of kids? Well, it’s through very basic programming, as you simply train the robots to follow patterns on the surfaces that they roll over. Ozobot can identify lines, colors, and codes on both digital surfaces, such as an iPad, and physical surfaces, such as paper.
You can calibrate the robots to follow lines by holding down a power button. Then you can draw lines for the robot to follow in an app. You can create race tracks for multiple Ozobots to roll over. The boys are gonna go bananas over the racing function. Wait, does that mean I need to get Henry one too? Uh oh.
I think Idrank the Kool-Aid, y’all. I can see the beift of coding for kids. I’m a convert.
I think this is the kind of video the boys and I will check out Xmas morning…
This cheerful little nut from KidToyTesters has a super engaging (especially if you’re under 15yrs old – you’ll see what I mean in the first few seconds if you click it ) intro video that gives a pretty comprehensive shakedown about what you can do with your newly unboxed Ozobot.