In the Lego Movie, the protagonists are “master builders” — enlightened blockheads with a superior understanding of how the tiny pieces of their plastic world fit together. This special knowledge allows our mini heroes to, for example, solve a thorny plot problem by taking a car apart and reconfiguring its pieces to build a rocket. The moral of the story? Knowledge is power, and power can be taught.
In the real world, innovative builders are easy to find. They often share two tendencies: 1) a solid belief in their own ability to create change in their environment, and 2) a basic understanding of how code works. The question is: How might we empower the next generation of problem-solvers? Here’s one suggestion:
Teach computer science skills — to all students — starting at an early age. “The kids of today tap, swipe and pinch their way through the world. But unless we give them tools to build with computers, we are raising only consumers instead of creators,” says programmer Linda Liukas [TED Talk: A delightful way to teach kids about computers.]
There’s a huge demand for programmers in the workforce. “Everyone deserves a chance at learning about technology innovation,” says Kimberly Lane, a teacher in Texas. Yet the benefits of teaching every kid to love computer science goes beyond future career opportunities. “We live and breathe technology everyday,” says Lane. “If the current generation doesn’t leave a lasting legacy of technology inventions, what will happen to the generations to come?”
Teaching computer skills to everyone has a ripple effect, too. Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, notes that when girls learn programming skills, they become change agents in their communities. “If you look at the projects they create in our programs, you can see that they’re thinking about how they solve the most urgent problems in their communities,” she says. “For instance, two of our Midwestern Clubs students designed a technical approach to detecting lead levels in water.” Meanwhile in Seattle, some summer program students designed a mobile app that shows LGBTQ+ community members where to find safe spaces near them in the event of harmful situations. “That’s what we mean when we say girls becomes change agents,” says Saujani. “They use technology to make their communities a better place.”
To find 5 places where any kid can learn how to code, read this.
Art credit: iStock