As someone who’s had my children in the last decade, I can tell you that the pushy-parent movement sometimes makes me feel like I’m failing my kids because they can’t code. I’ve always been a bit dubious about coding and young children, like WIRED’s Adrienne So: Is it really that necessary a life skill when getting them to master basic hygiene, or feeling generous enough to share a toy with a sibling, is tricky enough?
I had a change of heart about coding a few months ago, when a friend told me my girls should try a coding game she’d discovered: Erase All Kittens (EAK). A web-based Mario-style adventure game designed for children 8 and up, it combines a gamified, story-driven narrative and cute characters with something unexpected: kitten GIFs which pop up throughout gameplay. Plus, it’s currently free to play, a real perk when the cost of some coding platforms can feel off-putting and prohibitive.
My older two daughters, aged 8 and 10, are just the right target demographic for the game, and they became instantly hooked. (I’m not—yet I also find myself playing.) Instead of pulling them off the computer, I’ve been urging them to play more, realizing this is a far better use of their time than their previously preferred alternative: watching endless sponcon videos on YouTube.
EAK is more than fun: We’re learning practical skills as we play. It uses real syntax—the same that professional developers would use—to teach coding. This differs from most coding options currently available for kids, like Scratch or Blockly, which teach the basics of computational thinking using drag-and-drop coding.
“We’ve found that this has created a huge gap—between kids learning the simple concepts of coding, and being able to learn professional skills that can be applied in a creative, real-world context,” explains EAK cofounder Dee Saigal.
While there’s no shortage of coding platforms and resources for children (Tynker, Code Monkey and Kodable, to name just a few), many seem geared towards younger kids, with little to entice tweener girls.
An oversight? Perhaps. Also, a huge problem: Studies show that the tween stage is a particularly critical time when it comes to engaging girls with STEM. Research from the Swedish School’s Inspectorate found that girls are just as interested in technology as boys up to age 11 (86 percent); by age 15, it drops significantly (37 percent).
But things are starting to change. Hopscotch, a coding platform for children cofounded by Samantha John, was born partly out of John’s feeling as a youngster that programming was “not made for people like me.” The creator-friendly platform allows kids to play others’ games and gives them the tools to make up their own. Girls do tend to pursue different projects than boys on the platform, programming games relating to music, storytelling, or design.
Source link : wired