For young students, a C# coding workshop for kids

Free online course for students as young as 10 is designed to ignite interest in programming

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Wendy Drexler, director of online development at Brown University, said teaching programming early can pay off in improved thinking and decision-making skills. "Programming is an excellent skill to have and not just for the marketability it offers," she said in an interview.

"Programming skills are so integral to what's happening in our world. Name a field that doesn't have some technology integration," she said. As much as teaching students a specific computer program, Drexler said educators need to "teach a mindset for programming, to lay a foundation for it."

Drexler said having an "approach with volunteers and teachers working with small groups of students to form a community is another great way to get programming into the education system, especially if it's difficult to get programming classes into a school curriculum...It's hard to change things in education."

Drexler said she taught Scratch to third graders in a previous job and has worked with teachers on using Scratch in the classroom. "It's a great foundational tool for future programming," she said. Skonnard's idea of taking the C# workshop concept to a nonprofit, national level "is a noble cause," she added.

Teaching programming skills is definitely more valuable to students than taking courses on using existing programs or games, Drexler added. "I'm a very big advocate for making people digitally aware," she said. "The reality is that if you don't understand how this or that programming process works, technology just sort of happens to you."

Rachel Ann Murphy, an educational technology specialist for the Canyons School District in Utah said by email: "Definitely we should be teaching programming to young students -- the younger the better! Research tells us it's easier for younger students to learn a new [spoken] language, and I think the same idea should be applied to programming languages as well.

"There is a sense of empowerment when a student at any age creates a program, executes the program and watches the program perform on the screen. It is the creativity behind programming and watching an idea come to life which teaches our youth that they can be producers and innovators."

Murphy said it's important that school districts make programming a priority by funding teachers and resources.

The push for more programming has had some critics who worry that children shouldn't spend so much time in front of computer screens and TVs. But Wexler and Murphy said that concern can be managed.

"Students as well as adults should limit the time they spend in front of computer screens and TVs, but it is important to realize that programming time on the computer can be limited and broken into chunks of time on the computer and off," Murphy said. " Many aspects of programming happen away from the computer as well."

This article, For young students, a C# coding workshop for kids, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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