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2 Minute Summary: Teaching Coding to Kids: What Programming Language Should We Use?

Updated: Apr 11, 2019

Here's your two minute summary of Teaching Coding to Kids: What Programming Langauge Should We Use? by Sheena Vaidyanathan, a computer science integration specialist at the Los Altos School District in California.

Where to Start

Feeling overwhelmed about deciding which programming language to use with your students? You're not alone. JavaScript, Java, Ruby, Python, Scratch - there are so many choices to consider.

According to Vaidyanathan, the programming language you choose is not as nearly as important as teaching students problem solving strategies and excellent programming habits. Kids need to also learn fundamental programming concepts, such as functions, loops, and good algorithm design. In fact, these concepts and skills can be taught through any programming language. As a software engineer and teacher, I completely agree!

There are so many choices to consider when selecting a programming language to use with kids.

There is also the question of using a block-based langauge (such as Scratch) versus a text-based one (like JavaScript). Vaidyanathan says either can work, however, block-based programming is easier when starting out especially for younger students. Students can begin with a block-based language and transition over to text-based programming once they've built up their skills.

Other Considerations

  • Select a programming language with a community of educators behind it as there will be more resources and projects available.

  • The chosen langauge should be accessible and run across all platforms so kids can have the option of working on projects at home. For example, Swift only works on specific environments, but JavaScript can run pretty much anywhere.

  • Student projects should be able to be shared easily with a larger community so kids can learn from each other. Scratch, for instance, has made sharing projects very easy to do.

  • Consider languages that are flexible like Python as opposed to Java, which can be more rigid.

Students can learn the building blocks of coding using any programming language.

Final Thoughts

Teaching foundational programming concepts and best practices is the most important when learning to code, regardless of language. The goal should be to allow kids to investigate these concepts, see what is possible with code, and have fun with programming.

Check out the full article here. Happy innovating!