Mitch Resnik, the creator of the super-simple Scratch programming language and head of the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab, gave a TEDx talk about the value of coding and computer literacy in early education. He posits that while today’s students are technically competent, they are consumers of technology rather than creators. It’s as if they can only read and not write.
As a parent I’ve tried to teach my kids to code with mixed results. Arguably they’re a bit too young right now to really see the excitement in creation but I felt that exposing them early to, say, Scratch and electronics kits is a valuable exercise. However, the average school curriculum, at least in Brooklyn where I am, treats programming as an advanced art, offering the kids little more than a bit of word processing and some game playing in lieu of something like Scratch.
Resnik, through Scratch, has a created an amazing tool for programming education. Now, however, schools need to teach programming as more than just a STEM discipline and more of a creative outlet. He begins his talk by showing all of the cool Scratch projects he found while searching for an interactive Mother’s Day card. These aren’t “games” or programs in a traditional sense but actually more like little interactive cartoons. Once we pull programming out of the getting-stuff-done ghetto, we could have some cool little kids on our hands who see themselves as less a group of consumers and more a group of creators.