Well, yes, a lot of (Apple) apps are intuitive enough for kids to learn and use right away. Apple (because we are talking a lot about iPads) has been so successful primarily because its products are so intuitive to use that even babies can pick up an iPad and start using it. That’s great!
But, for a program (or app or operating system) to be intuitive, there must be good programmers who code all that intuitive code. How about giving your kids a chance to be one of those programmers? Who knows, they may take to programming like ducks take to water — and be the future programmers who bring us even more great apps and software. They may change the world!
Kids can learn to code.
But, before you start, here are a few computer skills you may want to teach them at the same time.
Regardless of which computer operating system being used at school, kids all have to learn to turn on their computer, log in, navigate their way, and launch a particular program.
- Log in. Starting at Grade 1, you can teach them how to log onto a computer (which means, you need to create for them their own username and password onto the family computer first). They may have been taught that already at school if their school issues computers (or accounts to access the school network). They need to understand what a username is and what a password is — and that they are different: Everyone can know their username, but only they should know their password. Also, in which of the two login fields on the computer screen to type the username (usually the top field) and the password (usually the bottom field). Until they become familiar with this simple procedure to log into their computer, they can take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes trying to figure this out, mistyping the letters, not typing an upper case letter when there is one, typing in all caps, adding a space when there is none, and mixing the two fields.
- Launch a browser. Unless they are clicking on a game icon on the desktop directly, chances are they will first need to launch a browser to go onto the Internet. Depending on which computer operating system you’re using, the browser could be Safari, Firefox, Chrome, etc. It will allow you to connect to the Internet. Once logged into the computer, they need to learn to identify the browser icon, which could be in a number of different places: 1) It could be right there on the desktop screen. 2) It could be at the bottom in the dock. 3) They may have to click Start (for Windows users) to see it. 4) They may have to click Start and then scroll the list of programs to find it. Make it easy for your kids and create an alias (MacOS) or shortcut (Windows) of the icon onto the desktop.
- Type the URL of the site. They need to be able to differentiate between the browser Address Bar and the Search Field. While an Address Bar will also function as a Search Field, the opposite is not true. If you type a site’s URL into a Search Field, it will not take you directly to the site in question, but will return a list of possible sites. They also need to learn to type exactly all the letters, carefully avoiding to add a space, knowing how to type a forward slash, knowing how to use the Shift key, the Period key, the Comma key, the # key. They also need to learn not to type only the first few letters and then click on a similar URL address in the drop down list (because it could have been typed wrong in that list).
These are the three basic computer skills kids (as young as 6 years old) need to learn and master. They need to practice this every time they ask to use the computer. At first, they will hunt and peck their way across the unfamiliar territory that’s the keyboard, make lots of mistakes, and you will be wise to use scaffolding strategies to help them avoid frustration.
Once your kids have mastered these three skills, you will then be able to say things like, “Go to code.org/minecraft and choose a coding lesson to do” — and they’ll know exactly what you mean and zip to the site in question in no time without handholding. They will also feel confident and gain speed while hunting and pecking their way across the keyboard. (Hey, I still type with two fingers, and I graduated in Computer Sciences!)
Where do they learn to code? There are a number of good places, but the one I like to start the younger ones on is the one mentioned above: code.org/minecraft and start with the Minecraft Hour of Code Tutorials which are easy and fun! Your kids will spend hours having great fun playing Minecraft-type games — while learning coding in the process!
Try it out yourself first by following a lesson from beginning to end. There’s lots of handholding, so even if you have never written one line of code before in your life, you will not get lost but will feel elated once you complete the lesson. Then, when you help your kids solve the coding problems, you’ll be a hero in their eyes!
Try it out and let us know how you — and your kids — like it!