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Why coding is vital for our future

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/McIek)

The future generation will hold jobs we can’t even dream up yet - How will those jobs come about? Who will create them? What will happen to the old jobs? Where will those jobs be? Not to worry, these “new” jobs are just an evolution of the way we work and the things we do now.  Remember Starbucks before it had automatically printed drink tickets?  We would just write the drink order on the cup with a big black sharpie.  These little advancements bit by bit transform the role of the barista - and these little tech advancements can be seen in every industry if we just take the time to keep an eye out for them. 

You might be thinking, why would a barista need to know how to code - well the simple answer might be - they don’t! But if you dig a little deeper and think a few years (or a couple of months) down the road.  What happens when the ticket machines stop working or the automatic coffee grinder screen doesn’t reload and needs to be slightly reprogrammed in order to create the precise measure for the espresso shot?  Understanding how technology works is NOW an essential part of the role.  And understanding the fundamentals of coding is the best place to start.

Learning “how to code” is the buzz phrase we might say for computational thinking.  We are not trying to create a new generation of 100 percent computer programmers but understanding the basics of coding, computational thinking and general tech literacy is essential to becoming an active part of our communities and the future workforce.

Now, let’s look at the top three reasons, in my mind, why learning how to code is essential for a brighter tomorrow:

  • Computational Thinking = creative problem solving
  • Resilience = determination that no challenge will be unanswered
  • Diversity and Equality = better technology and therefore a better world

Computational thinking

It’s incredibly important for children to learn computational thinking at a young age so they can learn to take a problem, understand it and develop solutions for both humans and computers to solve. One of the benefits of learning computational thinking, the core concepts behind developing code and algorithms, is that it gives students both the tools and the idea that there are many ways to solve a problem, whilst at the same time encouraging curiosity, collaboration and communication.

Not only will learning to code mean solving problems using maths, but it also requires kids to think outside the box, honing those creative skills. Trying to solve difficult problems requires creative solutions, a highly sought-after skill which is often difficult to teach in more traditional classroom subjects.  As an entrepreneur, architect and mother of three, I use the same skills honed through years of coding and problem solving in the day to day running of my business and household!

Resilience

Coding can be challenging at times especially when faced with a complex problem. By grasping and understanding the problem using computational thinking, children will learn to come up with creative ways around it if at first they don’t succeed. This is key to teaching children to develop resilience when faced with a challenge and a level of perseverance that will also keep them focused and engaged.

Learning from our mistakes is a positive opportunity to teach vital skills children will use throughout their lives and ensure that they are prepared for their futures. When the next generation enters the workforce, they will be able to take the perseverance and determination to find solutions that they’ve learnt through coding to reimagine not only the way we work, but also of what we think is possible. The children of today will be creating new jobs tomorrow that don’t yet exist to keep up with industry developments, evolving outdated processes and ways of working and providing a fresh new perspective and approach.

Diversity and equality

A diverse workforce is a strong workforce, bringing in people from different backgrounds and being able to approach projects and challenges from a broad range of ways of thinking. The STEM sector is traditionally male-dominated and we’re still a ways away from having an equal male-female split.

Although it’s a step in the right direction to have coding as part of the National Curriculum and a lot of positive effort is being made, it’s important to make sure that the way coding is being taught to boys and girls should be equally engaging for everyone. 

Making coding fun and accessible for all children and encouraging more girls to learn how to code isn’t impossible. In fact, it’s easy to get them involved if you engage with kids through creative themes and real-world examples that they can identify with, not just the typical kids who gravitate to the subject.

Instead of the classic ‘let’s make a video game’ or ‘drones programming 101’ approach, we can look at themes that they encounter on a daily basis like sustainability and conservation, showing them how drones are being used to find and collect plastics in the ocean before teaching them how to program their own drone to do the same.

Inspiring all kids to engage with code will not only equip them with essential skills for their future work, but it will also create a world where children will have an unlimited appetite for curiosity, enabling them to move forward, open new doors and be able to write their own futures.

Elizabeth Tweedale, CEO, Cypher