Do we need to teach kids to code? See why one mom decided to use CodaKid for her son’s computer lessons.
There are many advocates out there who champion the importance of teaching kids to code. I have to admit, I used to be on the fence about it. I guard technology time closely with my kids and I do not think childhood was meant to be spent in front of a computer screen. That being said, I also want my kids to have computer skills and understand how computers work. Obviously, computers are foundational in our society. There just aren’t any career paths I can imagine for my kids’ futures that don’t center around computers.
I remember as a little kid (really little, like maybe kindergarten), I used to think that tiny people lived inside the traffic lights. I thought they could see the cars waiting and they changed the light whenever they thought it was time. Looking back that is so funny to me because a traffic light is rudimentary compared to the technology that we have today. I often wonder how kids think that our technology works. It isn’t magic. Siri and Alexa are not actually people that live inside our devices. They are code. They are a program that people wrote. It is important to teach kids to code because it is teaching them the science of computers. Coding also teaches them logic and reasoning skills.
Learning with CodaKid
CodaKid: The Adventure Begins is an online coding course designed for kids ages 7-15. My son, age 9, has completed this course and he really loved it. I woke up every morning to a little boy above my bed saying, “Can I do CodaKid?”
The CodaKid course teaches kids to write in Java, the programming language used in the game Minecraft. In this course, your child will complete many tasks, such as creating his own sword, armor, and tools. Each lesson is a series of videos that explains in detail the step-by-step directions your child should follow to accomplish the task while teaching the principles of coding. Each video has points where the child is instructed to press “pause” in order to complete a couple of steps and then return to the video. At the completion of the video lesson, the child takes a quiz over what was learned.
The ability to dream up your own world and then make it a (virtual) reality has really captured his imagination.
The lessons are funny and engaging. The instructor has great personality and easily captures the child’s attention. The videos are high quality. The audio and visual production is excellent, rivaling any children’s television program. The overall production of the videos, in my opinion, makes a huge impact on the ease at which they are able to convey the information. If you have ever seen a poorly done, poorly produced instructional video, then you know what I mean!
By the end of the first CodaKid course, my son was able to copy items and blocks from Minecraft and modify them to look and behave differently in the game. For example, you can take the explosion code from the TNT block and take the code that allows you to throw a snowball and combine them to make a grenade that you can throw and then it explodes. This is something that you cannot do in the original Minecraft game, but by importing the items and recoding them, your child can make a modification to the game or “mod” as they are called. The final lesson was how to share your mod. My son was very excited to learn about this. He dreams of developing a mod that other kids will want to play too. This lesson also showed him how to use other free mods that people have coded which are really neat and creative.
Even if my son doesn’t grow up to be a professional software designer, I believe that learning coding helps develop valuable skills. Thinking about something logically and systematically will help him in many other areas including math and science. Additionally, completing this course helped him learn other things as well.
When my son began to learn to code, we discussed how I did not know about coding and he would need to find his own answers if he had problems. Therefore, by completing this program, he also learned how to troubleshoot problems, how to carefully look back over his work, and how to email tech support and explain his problem specifically and in detail. We found that CodaKid had very helpful tech support. When my son sent an email, he would get an auto reply with suggestions of forum discussions that may be helpful. He was able to find the answers he needed many times on his own. When he couldn’t find his own answers, a tech support person was able to help. He successfully completed the entire course and all tasks without me having to sit down and figure anything out. This was my favorite thing about this course.
My son’s favorite thing about learning to code is the possibilities it opens up. One of the mods we downloaded allows kids to hatch dragon eggs and raise up dragons. As adults, you can fly on your dragons. The ability to dream up your own world and then make it a (virtual) reality has really captured his imagination. Learning to write code in Minecraft so that kids can create their own unique mods is really exciting! We will continue with other courses from CodaKid because they were high quality and my child was able to work through them independently.
About the All-Star Blogger:
Melanie is a home educator of her four children ages 6, 9, 10, and 12. Melanie’s background is in science and she has a bachelor’s degree in Biology. Before becoming a mom, she worked in biomedical research. Melanie has many interests and whether it is science, literature, history, art, or music, she enjoys learning alongside her kids and helping them discover new things about the world. Her kids are involved in 4-H, Girl Scouts, horseback riding, piano, drums, and some sports, but at the same time, Melanie guards her family’s time and believes in leaving enough space in the schedule for rest and relationships.