One afternoon, Ryan and I gave some of our curriculum a test run on our children. When you have family, it’s easy to make them the guinea pigs or test cases for what you’re trying to accomplish. We didn’t have more than an hour, and we took our kids through the Hour of Code.
Taking Baby Steps
The exercises found on the site are great because they’re very visual. My oldest son would add a command to the site and check what the result would be. Move forward. Great. Now we know that was the desired action or not good enough.
“I’ll just try this to see what happens,” he said.
He didn’t always get the desired result. There were several times he tried a few things, deleted the commands or started over. We talked about it for a moment, he tried again, and it started to click.
That Moment Your Child “Gets It”
My son worked on what’s called an “if statement.” In simplest terms, think of it as “if this happens, do that.” This one was a little more complicated. It required a little more thought because there was more than one possible outcome. He had to pair two if statements together. I asked him to not look at the visual builder and look at the code itself. I asked him, “What does this code do?”
Here was his explanation:
If I can move forward. Move forward. If I can’t, then I check to see if I can turn left. If I can, I turn left. If I can’t, I turn right.
Seems like such a simple process to us because we go through these thoughts all the time in our daily lives. My son took this thought and turned it to code. What’s more impressive is he went home that day and explained it to my wife who has no coding background.
Embracing Logical Thinking and Problem Solving
The if statement is a very logical progression of a thought. Something has to be possible for it to happen. This mode of thinking helps a child work through a problem in very simple terms. Think about conversations you had with your child. Have you ever said, “If you don’t get off that couch…” and followed it up with a consequence? This if statement helped my child to think through his own consequences when he did his Hour of Code.
My child is currently 8 years old. At 8 years old, I had no idea how to write any lines of code beyond command lines in DOS. It’s very easy to think technology or programming is a skill that doesn’t fit our children, but I see so much more potential for him because he’s already 10 years ahead of my first if statement.