'If you let the children lead you in their learning - they will get there before you'

Children can lead coding classes, experts say

Computing experts have suggested that children can be trusted to take the lead in coding classes.

Children as young as 13 have been developing their coding skills using simple tools. The BBC spoke to a number of experts who advised that children are learning at such a rate that they can teach themselves or each other.

Professor Stephen Heppell, an expert in technology and new media, said that the key is to let children take the lead when it comes to learning skills in a field as constantly shifting as technology. He also claimed that children are already programming Raspberry Pi microcomputers with no worksheets.

“They get help from other children. You just have to trust them. If you let the children lead you in their learning – they will get there before you,” he said.

Julian Heppell, the professor’s daughter and a teacher at a west London school where children have been learning to code for a year using the open source software Scratch, said that YouTube is a prime source of information for pupils too young to cope with the format of user manuals.

Her view is that the first step to children becoming adapt coders is for them to fist become “engaged with computing”.

CoderDojo co-founder Bill Liao added: “Coding is a language skill. You need to be a native speaker and for that you have to start young. We start kids at seven. The kids are the digital natives. Most adults are more akin to digital immigrants.”

Liao sees coding as a creative experience. He said that the best coders are like poets, able to express their thoughts powerfully through the most effective, shortest pieces of code.

Coding and computing education has been a hot topic this week, starting with web founder Tim Berners-Lee talking about the joy of coding at the World Economic Forum.

The UK Government confirmed it would be introducing computer science to the English Baccalaureate. Meanwhile, warnings about the industry skills gap widening also surfaced.

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