Clearly, different eras call for different skills: Kids are now learning about HTML before their ABCs.
More and more computer programming classes are popping up in elementary and middle schools across the country, and now even kindergarteners are learning how to code.
Researchers have developed ScratchJr, a free, open source iPad app that teaches coding basics for kids as young as five.
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“When many people think of computer programming, they think of something very sophisticated,” co-developer Mitchel Resnick of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology tells the Associated Press. “But we don’t think it has to be that way.”
ScratchJr (which is a simplified version of the popular programming platform Scratch) allows kids to string coding blocks together in order to make animated characters move, jump, as well as change their size or color, the AP says. The app also lets users add voices and sounds and photos, which means kids can create their own digital storyboards.
While teaching coding to children who might not even know how to read yet sounds a little strange, the idea is to expose kids to computer programming early on so they don’t become intimidated by it as they grow up.
“We don’t want necessarily every young child to become a computer scientist or to work as an engineer, but we want every young child to be exposed to these new ways of thinking that coding makes possible,” says fellow ScratchJr developer Marina Umaschi Bers of Tufts University.
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With the boom of tech companies such as Facebook, Google and Apple, as well as the proliferation of cell phones, tablets and laptops, encouraging younger generations to code not only helps them better understand the world they live in, but allows them to tinker with it and maybe even improve upon it, too.
ScratchJr received $1.3 million in funding from the National Science Foundation. The app is currently available for the iPad, but an Android and Web-compatible version is being developed.