Coding for Children

January 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

play-Bo-gives-a-friend-a-flower

It is known that learning languages is much easier in a young age. As programming or coding is a language on its own, Vikas Gupta, an internet entrepreneur and former head of Google Consumer Payments, got concerned about how to teach coding to children when he got his first child.
The major issue he faced was how he would get a child learning code, which usually requires sitting in front of a screen and writing lines, when it would rather be playing outside.

When I read this line in the online article of Wired my immediate reaction was: “Why would you want to keep a child from playing outside?”. This oppositional attitude of mine of course is a biassed one, as I have gained some background knowledge of children’s development and education for my research for a book for dyslexic children in 2009. Movement and physicality is a crucial process for children to learn and understand themselves and the world around them and for developing basic coordinative and orientational skills.

But his intention was not to keep children inside in front of a screen, at least not all the time. Play-i, 2 cute looking blue teaching robots named Bo and Yana developed by Vikas Gupta, Saurabh Gupta and Mikal Greaves designed to be an interactive and playful teaching device that doesn’t necessarily keep its audience (or playmates) inside.

Still, in my opinion the background of the project – as adorable, fun and functional it might be – is questionable. According to the article it grew out of the question how the United States could keep up with other countries like Estonia for example, where they teach coding much earlier. Should it not be more important to get in control and understand the devices that you spend more and more of your lifetime with, than trying to persist in an economical international competition?

Either way, those robots hopefully have positive side effects and besides “building the backbone of a [programming] skill set” (Stinson 2014) they might teach children a different understanding of their surroundings and make them question what goes on behind those screens and other gadgets that humans deal with each and every day.

Our society changes constantly, shaped by new technologies we develop which require new skills and make other abilities dispensable. But are we that far already to detain our physicality and focus on a life behind the screen? Is this an active decision we make or is it adaption? In the history of our planet, the human history, adaption was equatable with survival, but is this about surviving?

Stinson, L. 2014. Google and Apple Alums Invent Adorable Robots That Teach Kids to Code | Wired Design | Wired.com. [online] Available at: http://www.wired.com/design/2013/11/these-little-robots-teach-kids-to-code/ [Accessed: 8 Jan 2014].

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