10 Questions with a coder
Yes. A coder.
Us 40-something parents who grew up with manual typewriters didn’t learn to use a computer until our 20s, may recall the hundreds (lol) of web pages that were online in the early 90s.
It still blows my mind that there is a language to talk to computers (and really blows my mind that two computers learned to speak to each other last week and then created their own language –– hello SkyNet from Terminator Genisys) so it’s starting to become more clear why coding is important to know.
We caught up with Jen Chiou, founder of CodeSpeak Labs to find out about coding for kids. She has created computer programming classes for students from PreK to Grade 12. Most recently she created CodeSpeak Books, just launched on Kickstarter, geared toward children 2 to 6+ years of age. The first book, How to Turn Your Grownup into a Robot, is the perfect way to engage children at such a young age. And Jen’s not just a teacher – she has two small boys, 3 and 1, and is already teaching them the basics.
We asked Jen the questions you know you want to know about getting your kids to learn how to code.
1. What is coding?
Coding is giving instructions to a computer so it knows what you want it to do. In order to create and control technology, you have to speak computer languages.
2. How does coding apply to my child’s life?
If your child is anything like my kids, they already gravitate toward wanting to use technology. Unfortunately, most of that is passive, like watching YouTube videos.
We want kids to be creators of technology, so that they can help shape the future. In order to do that, they have to be code literate.
3. How young can you teach coding to a child?
CodeSpeak Books is one of the age appropriate ways you can start teaching children computational thinking, the foundation of coding. We say the book is for kids as young as 2, though similar to any picture book you have, you could start reading it with your child even earlier!
4. What keeps their interest about coding, it seems intense?
Keeping it fun is key. CodeSpeak Books are entertaining and interactive – kids laugh and delight at seeing how the code changes the course of the story.
5. Is coding going to be integral for future success?
For our kids’ generation, coding is as important as reading and writing.
No matter what field they decide to pursue, technology is going to play an important part. Coding early in life not only gives them technical knowledge, it actually broadens how they think about problem solving.
6. Does coding language change? How can I keep my child up-to-date?
There are many programming languages. Professional software engineers are constantly learning.
What’s most important is teaching kids the fundamental logic, which applies across languages, and helping them develop a growth mindset so that they are eager to tackle new problems and continuously improve.
7. I’m practically computer illiterate since I grew up without computers. I didn’t have an email address until the 90’s, and started with the World Wide Web Worm.
I can’t code – how can I help my child?
You’re not alone! Most parents don’t know how to code.
What’s great about CodeSpeak Books is parents AND kids learn at the same time! Any who can read can learn from CodeSpeak Books, no prior knowledge necessary.
8. Will my child need sophisticated equipment and expensive computers to be a successful coder?
Definitely not. When you learn from a book you can read it without any other technology. When your child is ready to use a device, you can use the code on any laptop/tablet that has an Internet connection.
9. Does coding lead to too much screen time?
We leave it to parents to decide how much screen time their children have. Learning code involves both screen and non-screen activities.
And if your child is ready, you can use a device alongside the story and code together.
10. What is the demand for code?
Jobs in computer programming are among the fastest-growing and highest-paying opportunities in the world today. Even if your child doesn’t become a computer programmer as a career, the ability to understand how technology works will benefit them in any field.
Jen Chiou, founder of CodeSpeak Labs, established computer programming classes for students from PreK-12 in classrooms in NYC and CA. Prior to founding CodeSpeak Labs, Ms. Chiou worked in tech – where she was shocked at how difficult it was to recruit a diverse tech team.
“I’m the mom of two, Maxwell, 3 and Alexander, 1 and a half,” Jen shared. “I’ve found stories to be one of the most powerful ways to engage my kids in big ideas – from potty training to being kind to others. So I hit upon the idea to experiment with different coding stories with my 3 year old. He’s hooked and loves the stories and the accompanied learning.”