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‘Coding is fun, yet equips children with problem-solving skills’

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Children in a coding class

Mr Joseph Ukagwu is a staff of Visonet Education, which won the Most Innovative ICT Institute in Nigeria Award for 2019, given by Titans of Tech Awards. In this interview, Ukagwu, who is an expert in coding, explains the benefits of the art, saying parents should seize the opportunity of the summer holiday to introduce it to their children.

What is coding?
Coding is the basic art of writing in a programming language.

How is coding done?
Coding is done by using a programming language to get a computer to behave how you want it to. Every line of code tells the computer to do something, and a document full of lines of code is called a script. Each script is designed to carry out a task.

Are there different categories of coding languages?
Yes there are. They are Javascript, Python, SQL, PHP, Ruby, C++ and so on but Javascript is the most prominent coding language.

When did children begin to get involved in coding in Nigeria?
Children started getting involved in coding in Nigeria between 2014 and 2016. I can’t recall precisely.

What are the benefits of coding to children?
The best age range to begin teaching children coding is between ages 5-16 and above. There are lots of benefits that can be derived from coding. Kids can learn computational skills. When kids learn how to write codes, they not only develop cognitive skills but also learn the problem-solving process that’s similar to a computer. Apart from coding, computational thinking can also be used in other situations since it can help solve practical problems.

Again, coding is the new literacy. Today, kids are growing up in a totally different world. Computers, cell phones and internet are all embedded in their lives. In fact, even toys are currently digital and many of them have programmes. Although it’s one thing to know how to use technology, it’s another thing to understand the science behind them. Coding helps to draw back the magic behind them so that children can understand what controls them. A child of today must, therefore, consume technology and understand what controls it.

Additionally, coding helps kids to learn problem-solving skills. Coding teaches the kids to break down hard problems into different parts. This technique can also be transferred to several other fields. In coding, computer programmers will figure out the bugs by generating a hypothesis and tweaking the codes to test which one can solve the problem.

Coding also comes with career opportunities. In order to compete in the current global economy, kids need to have a comprehensive skill set that includes technology. In fact, in future, not knowing how to code will only be comparable to not knowing how to read. Most jobs will require that you have basic computer skills. Even boutiques and restaurants currently need some form of computer knowledge. Those who specialise in coding will, therefore, earn a lot of money and since they are frequently contacted by clients, the opportunities for those who know how to code will definitely rise in future.

Coding equips the kids with skills that are important in future. The continuing importance of technology and pervasiveness in our lives would require a lot of people with coding skills. It’s believed that writing programmes will still pay well in the future. Even many other jobs that do not require the use of computers will require some form of coding. Additionally, when learning how to code, children will also learn other important skills such as communication, critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration.

Coding facilitates creativity. Unlike adults, most children have creative minds that enable them to think outside the box. The endless search for solutions and variations of coding can motivate them to use their creative minds to the maximum.

Coding can help kids to avoid problems and learn perseverance. In coding or programming, kids learn how to handle problems and anticipate any errors. Knowing how to write the correct codes can help prevent an entire programme from crashing. More so, if what they are creating is not coming out well, they tend to persist. Above all, coding is about problem solving.

What can a child do after learning coding?
After learning coding, a child will be able to develop Animation and Graphical Modelling, Computer Gaming, Create Digital Presentations, Web Research, Networks, communication and collaboration, Data Analysis and Programming.

How would children remember what they learnt by the time they go back to school?
Apart from the practical training they get, they will be given training materials and assignments that would help them remember what they have learnt before the next set of training kicks off.

Can coding be incorporated into school curricular or it has to be done only during vacations like the summer holiday?
There is a programme called Digi. Digi programmes provide a comprehensive primary and secondary computing curriculum for children aged five to 16 in coding, computational thinking, online safety, and digital literacy. They can also do coding when their schools are in session. It doesn’t disrupt their normal classroom activities. Coding is even more like a fun activity, that is, they play and learn at the same time.

What would you advise parents?
I will advise parents to take advantage of this great opportunity to enroll their kids in Digi programme. There are several coding centres in Lagos. We are also partnering with schools to make it more reachable to anyone and everyone. Parents should take advantage of this opportunity and enroll their kids. The numerous advantages cannot be over emphasised.


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