When I tell friends, family members, and even complete strangers about iD Tech, I often get the same question—can kids actually learn to code?
For anyone who isn’t a programmer, the skill usually comes off as wizardry; something only to be mastered by those with superpowers. Even after working in the video game industry for years, I have been amazed to see what has been produced in our coding camps, and programming classes by kids as young as seven years old!
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Programming is accessible for everyone.
And the best way to start learning programming is by getting a basic understanding of programming, starting with the basics. I’m talking really basic. Like defining words basic. Why? Because when we hear things like “coding” or “Java” or “application” without a base level of comprehension, it’s intimidating. It’s natural to be afraid of the unknown…so let’s make the unknown known.
Plus, when you’re trying to connect with your kids, you want, no, you need to speak their language. English is hard enough, let alone the many different programming languages kids can jump into. You don’t have to become a coder yourself, but it helps to have at least some familiarity with the basic terms in order to keep up.
For instance, maybe you’ve got a teenager who is trying to “mod” a game of Minecraftwhile “coding” a .net API. Want to know what they’re really doing? We can help.
First, as a word of caution, learning to code is a process. Sure, you can learn programming faster with a few key steps, but it’s going to take regular practice. You have to begin somewhere, so let’s get started!
Let’s say you have a dog, and we will call him Max. You want to be able to train Max to the point where upon command, he responds and performs to your instruction. “Sit.” “Stay.” “Don’t even think about chasing that squirrel.”
When you write a program, the basis of your actions doesn’t stray far from the same. You, the owner, are giving a set of commands to your computer (or dog, in this example) and expecting a certain outcome based on those commands. But instead of speaking those instructions with a pocket full of bacon treats, you’re writing instructions in a language that kind of resembles normal English, but with a few additional parameters and rules. Not to mention that, unlike a dog, the computer always listens—if the command is given properly.
Programming is the foundation of robotics, video games, apps, computer graphics, and so much more. Every computer program is a set of instructions; a sequence of short commands, one after another. It’s about breaking up a complex task into a set of smaller, individual instructions and using a programming language to write those instructions.
2. “Programming Language”
To go along with the point above, in order for you to communicate with a computer (and to get it to execute those instructions) you must speak its language.
In programming, a language is made up of a vocabulary and set of grammatical rules—sound familiar? Where it gets a little tricky is that each language is based on its own unique syntax (grammatical structure) and semantics (meaning).
There are a number of different programming languages, and when it comes to which one you should be learning, it all really depends on what you want to do. C++ is the basis for popular web browsers, Adobe products, and more, while Java is good to know when creating video games. Python powers sites like Pinterest and Instagram, and in the case of the internet, HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is used to create web pages that display information.
This helpful infographic from Lifehacker breaks down all the language differences.