“You might not think that programmers are artists, but programming is an extremely creative profession. It’s logic-based creativity.” – John Romero
As a developer, I probably have a slightly biased opinion on the benefits of learning programming, but it truly is a good skill to learn. In an increasingly technological world, computer science has much more of a real world impact compared to some traditional subjects like Maths. It also has the added benefit that it can utilise modern technologies to make learning the subject more engaging and fun. Unfortunately however, teachers lack the resources, enthusiasm or capabilities to capture young minds.
Numerous ideas and startups have been created over the years with the sole focus on encouraging and teaching kids to code. Sites like Tynker offer paid subscription based content that teach learners how to create games, mobile apps and mods from scratch and all the while targeting the next generation of developers. There are also hardware based projects like the Raspberry Pi which are complete computers that you can program and upgrade. While not directly focussed on teaching kids to code, they are increasingly being used to help teach programming due to the fact they are engaging, inexpensive and virtually limitless.
However, branded devices now seem to be appearing in the “teaching kids to code” niche. Tech and education company Kano have recently released a “Harry Potter Wand” that helps kids learn how to code through creating spells that they can subsequently cast. While a good premise, it opens up the issue of advertising and brand association. The emphasis may no longer be placed on helping kids learn to code, but more on selling kids a brand, in this case the already hugely popular Harry Potter universe. What’s next learn to code with barbie? Or perhaps build your own Jarvis? Although having a Jarvis would be pretty cool…
To summarise, getting children interested in coding is great. It helps bolster creativity, number skills and problem solving, but the idea of using it as yet another tool to market brands to children would completely ruin the concept.