Those of us who paid attention in school, made sure we learned the all the key skills and, given the opportunity, also added another language to our vocabulary. Maybe we learned Spanish, the second-most common language in the U.S., or Mandarin, the world’s most common language, which is spoken in around 2.5 million U.S. homes and has had an 18 percent leap in being taught in schools.
While a strong grasp of English, Spanish and Mandarin is useful in everyday life and when trawling the web, the real language of the Internet is code. There’s a growing movement among U.S. citizens who would like to see code taught in all schools, as currently only one in four include computer science on the curriculum. Earlier this year, one Kentucky lawmaker even tried to have coding recognized for a foreign language credit in state high schools.
Our kids grow up dreaming of what they want to be: a doctor, a movie star, a famous athlete and other professions. One thing they might not think of, however, is being a coder. Maybe, just maybe, they don’t associate coding with people who could be their heroes – people like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg or Twitter’s Jack Dorsey.
The next time your child is on Facebook, Twitter or another social media site, point them to this cool video on You Tube. It’s also the home page of Code.org, an organization dedicated to teaching code to anyone and everyone, especially children. In the video, Zuckerberg, Dorsey and a large group of other tech heroes explain how learning code - even very simple code - set them on the path to their success.
Every year, the team at Code.org organizes a special week where schools and individuals all over the world can sign up to learn “An Hour of Code.” It’s a powerful initiative and has already delivered more than 137 million hours of code lessons. This year’s An Hour of Code week is from December 7-13 and some 65,000 schools and other organizations have registered. It’s not too late to get your own school or group to participate - use the interactive map on the website to check whether your school is participating.
It’s almost never too soon to start learning. Sites like Tynker feature games that allow kids to play with code and get an idea of how they can control sounds, movements and colors.
A project that just closed on Kickstarter successfully raised funds to publish a coding book aimed at preschools. The Wonderful World of Creatures & Code is an initiative by Amie Pascal and Heather Petrocelli, who wanted to buy a children’s storybook about coding for a developer friend who had recently become a father. They came up empty-handed when they searched bookstores, so they decided to create something themselves. It’s now on track to become a colorful A-Z book for kids, complete with fun illustrations.
While there’s no doubt that learning a new language can be enjoyable and open up many lifestyle opportunities, the same is true when it comes to learning the coding language of the Internet.
With coding, it goes even further than that for our children. Learning to code will not give them a “nice to have” second language – it will mean they have the two first languages they need in today’s world, and a skill set that will be in demand in every walk of life.