Coding – the importance of learning a language

By September 4, 2015Code, Code Club, Learning

People of a certain age, say over 40 years old for now,

will recall attending language classes at secondary school where an exchange teacher taught you how to count to ten in French – or maybe German. How useful has this been in adulthood?

For some people, it may have spurred them on to learn an entire new language but for others, it may have assisted in ensuring the whole family enjoyed ice-cream on a hot and balmy day in Montpellier.

Dominic Maher

Dominic Maher

Team Member

Is coding about learning another language, like French or German – or is it something entirely different?

It all depends on which side of the fence you sit. Coding by working with one of the many programming languages is seen by some as important as a spoken language and therefore, should be on the curriculum in schools.

According to Will Powell, Head of Innovation at Keytree, learning how to use technology is as much a part of being able to use a Microsoft Word, as being able to talk to a machine (i.e. Apple’s SIRI or Microsoft’s Cortana). Will said: “It is just a different language, so it’s up there with French and German. People should not be so dependent on things, without knowing what is happening underneath, which is why I think kids should get involved”.

So that’s clear then – or is it? In schools, young people are surrounded by technology ranging from swipe cards for lunch – no lining up for meal tickets – to classrooms with a computer at each desk. Students can learn from everyday experiences on how to use technology.

But isn’t coding already included in ICT lessons?

Coding has been included in the curriculum since 2014, as part of ICT lessons, but there is a feeling that coding could be given a higher level of importance. Maybe it should be introduced at a much earlier age – in primary schools.

“This is in education, to some extent”, said James Woodhouse, COO at Keytree but he is worried that it is not universal and depends on the school. “There is enormous variation. Delivering this learning in schools can only happen if the school has parents involved and raise funds to make this happen. Not all schools have a flash IT suite”.

Is it down to parents to do more for their children’s needs or does industry have a bigger role to play? Let’s remember, there are plenty of experts out there in the industry.

We live in a society where there is a desire to give back to the community, and we expect companies to get involved with their community in the form of volunteering, sponsorship, etc. Look at Canary Wharf and the City of London. It is full of large corporations, and nearly all have departments committed to what is called Corporation Social Responsibility (CSR).

Keytree is no stranger to social responsibilities but Code Club, a registered charity has thrown down the gauntlet. Code Club has seen a surge in volunteering for these interventions, which feature people from technology going into schools and youth clubs to teach young and old about coding. There are more than 2,500 Code Clubs with more than 150 in Central London and the ultimate aim is to get one in four primary school children using code by the end of 2015.

Primary school children have enough subjects to learn so will a new topic be overwhelming?

The staff at Keytree see the move as an important one. Introducing the current younger generation to coding is providing them with a glimpse of what is behind the magician’s curtain. They are already immersed in a world of technology as consumers. Getting them engaged in the creation process is empowering.

James said: “Young people today are used to having an iPad in their hands, used to having a phone and used to doing stuff that is a bit alien to the older generation”.

He also wished he had typing lessons when at school as the keyboard is now an essential part of the world of work. “If it was on the curriculum when I was at school, I may be able to type 100 words per minute. It would dramatically increase my work output.”

The children of a coding revolution

Will explained that with the rise of the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT), future generations need more than a fundamental understanding of how the technologies work.

Coding is the foundation of the transformation of every industry. Enabling our children to get in on the ground level not only opens up their world but keeps the UK as a leader in this space.

With more than 36,000 young people engaged in UK-wide workshops via Code Club, we are creating the ground bed for the UK to innovate on a massive scale. Technology will be used in ways that we cannot yet imagine and with the help of industry investment our children will re-invent industry as we know it today.

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