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Ponycorn - Five Year Old Programs a Computer Game with Dad

By Sarah Liebetrau - 13th October 2013

Should kids learn computer programming as young as kindergarten?

There is a lot of fear-mongering around kids and technology. Is it a case of fearing what we don’t know?

When I was a child, it was TV that was going to turn children’s eyes square and their brains to mush. These days, TV gets lumped in with the all-inclusive ‘screen time’ and it seems to have been downgraded as a threat when compared with other types of technology such as computers and the associated infinite world of social media.

While there is potential for all forms of technology to be harmful, few would argue that there is also potential for it to be entertaining and even educational. As much as it’s important to assess the risk to our children of new technologies and to monitor the frequency of their use and the type of content they are viewing, sometimes the benefits of kids’ access to technology can get overlooked in the rush to protect them.

In 2012, video game developer Ryan Henson Creighton and his daughter Cassie gave a 7 minute talk at TEDx Toronto about a game they had collaborated on, called Ponycorn, which became a worldwide sensation.

Henson Creighton hopes that one day parents and kids will be able to develop games together at home, the way they would go swimming together or do a homework assignment.

He believes schools are behind when it comes to teaching kids about technology, and that it’s crucial that they learn not only how to use but  also how to develop software.

“Our goal should be to help kids become creators, not just consumers. But we’re not teaching programming,” he says.

Henson Creighton points out that some people are trying to solve the problem by getting ipads into classrooms as fast as possible. He says this is great, and while it helps them consume and even participate in technology, it doesn’t help them master it.

“We call kids ‘digital natives’ because they can use iPads….these devices have a touch controlled interface and one button. If we’re amazed kids can use these devices we’re not expecting enough of our kids…. The future demands mastery not just participation,” says Henson Creighton.

He believes kids should be taught programming from grade 3 at the latest, kindergarten ideally, and that instead of providing tech training to teachers, schools could pool resources to hire and share experts to come in and teach specific classes.

What do you think? Is computer programming a necessary skill for today’s kids? Or are they at risk of being consumed by technology?

You can watch the full talk here:

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