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Nawaf Alnaji

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Should we teach kids how to make programs instead of how to use them?

For the last two decades, most developed countries have implemented computer literacy education in schools. For students born in the 80s or even the early 90s, this was really important. However, students now no longer need this. They are already computer fluent. They are, as some people say, digital natives. Give them any program and they'll be able to teach themselves to do simple--to-moderate tasks without anyone teaching them in a short while.

Most schools teach students how to first use word processors, presentation programs, and spreadsheets. This is no longer needed for two reasons: 1) students are computer fluent, and 2) programs are getting more user friendly every day. Students don't need to be taught to use the programs they normally use. They should, however, be taught how to use the programs they will later need in life like spreadsheets and databases.
Instead, I think they should be taught programming. Although many schools around the school already teach programming, they teach it usually in highschool or junior high; if they teach it in elementary school, they usually teach a simplified "kids" language which uses drag-and-drop blocks. I think students should start learning programming languages like visual basic and Java in 5th or 6th grade. The first country that does this will have a huge IT revolution.
Kids are creative. Teaching them programming will be giving them the ability to direct this creativity and keep it.

So what do you think?


Written by a 16 year old.

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    Sep 30 2011: Why is this "either - or"? Can we not do both?
    • Oct 1 2011: Since they already know how to use the programs whether or not they are taught at school, I don't see any point of wasting their time and teaching them something they already know when they can spend their time learning something more beneficial, like programming. I think kids should only be taught how to use programs they may need in the future but they don't use them normally as kids, like databases (when they go to highschool).
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        Oct 23 2011: Because not everyone will require programming skills to manoeuvre through life. Frankly, I have had co-op students who really could use better skills at using the programs, never mind programming.

        As long as the teachers cannot use the programs proficiently, the students won't get the depth of knowledge either - except for that small segment who explore beyond basic functionality out of internal drive and curiosity.

        I say this as someone who does program and who studied logic (formal languages) out of a fascination with them. Not everyone has the interest or the inclination - and to force them would be as wrong as not allowing someone who does have the inclination to explore it.
        • Oct 24 2011: "Because not everyone will require programming skills to manoeuvre through life." Just like not everyone will require physics, biology, or chemistry. That applies on almost all classes. It's not about what they require. It's about what will benefit them greatly.
          You're not looking at the bigger picture. If an entire generation knows how to program, and they are using programs every day since childhood, imagine what would that cause. It'll be a revolution. Look at the thousands of programmers now who are programming for free from their homes. Just look at the mod and white hat hacker communities, from Linux to Android to Kinect to practically anything that uses code. The things done by those communities are already amazing. Now imagine the possibilities when thousands of teens join in.
          As for interest and inclination, they already teach programming to all students in some high schools. All I'm asking is that they teach it more and at an earlier age. And I actually think many who believe they don't like it have never tried it. Look at the statistic I put in my other comment. There are more kids that would like programming than we think.

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