There is a common belief that computational thinking is easier to learn or understand when using Python programming than other types of code. Put another way, you may learn to be a better driver as an adult if you spend your time driving a go-kart rather than a push bike. If you hope your child will become a programmer as an adult, don’t worry too much about teaching computational thinking because they will pick it up themselves. Still, here are a few tips if you want to give them a head start.
Sounds like the Thinking of a Machine to Me
The header is a line from the Matrix trilogy, back when Keanu Reeves was young and bullet-time motion was new and innovative. When Morpheus is told that the machines have created a killer drone for every man, woman, and child in Zion, he says, “It sounds like the thinking of a machine to me.” Coding will teach you many things about how computers work, and some things will surprise you, like how quickly a computer will run thousands of lines of code in a fraction of a second. The other elements include:
- Pattern Recognition
- Pattern Abstraction
- Algorithm Design
Many people believe these are the foundation levels of computational thinking in humans. To interpret, abstract, and design. Learning Python, starting small, and keeping it simple will help your child’s mind absorb these elements.
Keeping It Simple
When you teach a child how to speak French, you do not dive into the various prose of Shakespeare in French, and you don’t start the kid on an epic novel. It would help if you started with the words your kid already knows, especially those that cross over with English. Keeping it simple when learning Python is equally essential. It is like learning to swim. If you throw a kid in the deep end, they won’t want to get wet next time.
Start with a Learning Course
This is the essence of keeping things simple, just so long as you pick a course that offers to learn Python for kids through lessons and games. In truth, you could mess this up completely. You could find a course that is dry and boring, poorly paced, and complicated, or one that is just plain wrong.
When you search for a course, look for courses that allow kids to swim in certain subjects for an extended period. One with several games for each learning element is a good place to start. As the kids dabble in each element, the games give them something to do. Imagine if you were teaching a spoken language and the kids wanted to dabble with foodstuff names a little more (because they find them difficult to remember). Having games that feature those names, especially varied games, will help the kids immerse themselves a little longer so that they can truly absorb the content. The same is true when teaching a child Python and fostering an understanding of computational thinking.
Don’t Try to Dumb It Down
This is vitally important, perhaps the most important tip in this article. Keeping it simple doesn’t mean dumbing it down. It doesn’t mean starting your kid with Visual Basic or Mario Game Maker. It doesn’t mean using the “Scratch” programming language and tools. You are not helping your child when you dumb things down. If you are teaching your kid Python, then teach it in an easy way, but make sure you are still teaching them practicable Python.
The real-world equivalent of dumbing it down would be like trying to teach your kids to swim by throwing them in a ball pit. They may become excellent ball pit swimmers, but it will not help them when they get in the water.
Practice by Doing
Also, on a final note, one of the reasons why Python courses and games are so powerful is because they allow kids to practice by doing. It is the same reason why people pick up foreign languages better when they are in other countries. Learning Python can be as boring as learning any other programming language. Still, there is something more effective and powerful about letting a child learn by doing rather than learning by listening or through videos.