My Eight Year old Writes More Efficient Code Than Me

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

My oldest daughter never ceases to amaze me. She's in second grade, and obsessed with Doctor Who, loves dragons, books and games. We play chess at least once a week (she's teaching her little sister to play as well), she's my co-pilot when playing War Thunder, and  is always in pursuit of games we can all play together.

Not long ago, she came home beaming. She took a certificate out of her backpack saying that she had participated in the Hour of Code. The our of Code is a national movement to get computer science and coding into the classroom. This year, my daughter's class joined thousands of other students to learn some basic code from developers themselves. 

The lessons my daughter learned chowed characters from Angry Birds and Plants Vs. Zombies. She was tasked with writing code to get the character through an obstacle course. She absolutely loved it. She talked my ear off about coding in school that day, and wanted to try more on the laptop later that night. Of course, I let her at it. 

A lot of the process is streamlined in the early lessons. Rather than writing out the code exactly, it's organized into sort of interlocking blocks that students can drag and drop into place. With a single mouse click, you can see the raw code underneath the hood, so to speak. The puzzle piece feel of the code blocks is a great way of visualizing the daunting task of building a program. 

The lessons she learned in that introductory course may not stay with her forever, but I'm determined to help nurture her enthusiasm for code so far. Too often, kid's curriculums are built as though the Internet is still just a fad; something impermanent that no one will remember in a year. Like Zip drives. 

The fact is that code is a huge part of our world today. Software is everywhere, and understanding the structure it's based on is vital to our children's future. The Hour of Code looks at code as "the new literacy," a basic skill that should be taught to everyone. I couldn't agree more.

While really any code novice can benefit from the lessons, they are built specifically with children in mind. The lessons are friendly, informative and there's a lot of them. has lessons for HTML, Javascript, even Python. There's something there for everyone. 

If you're a parent, I suggest having your kids sit down with the introductory lessons. There are twenty of them and altogether, the lesson runs about forty minutes. It's an accessible introduction to a powerful set of skills. If they enjoy them, there are many more tutorials, including a 20 hour K-8 program available to anyone.