Two Tools for Teaching Children to Code

Why should we teach our children to code?

  • Because it gives them the ability to see what’s going on under the hood.
  • Because it sharpens their logical reasoning.
  • Because it empowers them to create instead of consume.
  • Because they may just like it and someday they might want to make a living out of coding.
  • Because it makes them “cool” among their peers.
  • Because it helps them to work better with computer professionals even if they chose a different line of specialization.
  • Because it is pure fun. Coding gives them instant gratification. Working code can show them magic unfolding in front of their eyes.

I am sure I wasn’t persuasive enough but please give it a try. There are tons of resources out there online to help you choose the right toolkit. It will be a true gift to your children.

To begin with here are a couple of links to checkout. Scratch from MIT is really easy and fun for young kids of age 5-8. App Inventor (created by Google and later donated to MIT) lets you create real Android apps using some of the event driven programming concepts. It is appropriate for ages 9-15. A child who can do Legos can do coding as well with either of these tools. Both are great tools for teaching.

Gifted and Talented

The school district in my town runs a prorgam called G&T for  elementary school students. Every year, a handful of kids get selected using some secret assessment criteria, with very limited parent insight.

For starters, G&T stands for Gifted and Talented program. I believe it does more harm than good for students and hence should be redesigned.

  1. Not so obvious, but the Gifted and Talented program is not very enriching for the children who get selected. Attaching a “Gifted” label is giving a false feedback to the children, who are attending those programs. When you start attaching labels such as innate (genetic) giftedness, kids could possibly grow a blind eye towards the importance of hard work. Studies after studies have found that educators and parents should be promoting hard work (“Well done Meena, you must have worked hard on that!”) instead of innate giftedness (“Wow! you did this! You are really smart, Johny!”). For example, Dweck and Mueller’s study found out that praising for hardwork encouraged fifth graders to persist longer and achieve better test results than the kids, who were praised for innate qualities such as smartness. (Those who are interested, here is an article for you – The Trouble with Bright Kids.)
  2. Obviously, G&T program is not so helpful for the students, who are not admitted to the program. At best, Gifted and Talented is a misnomer with some destructive qualities. Antonym for Gifted and Talented is Ungifted and Untalented, to figure which out, kids don’t have to be truly Gifted and Talented. For potentially benefiting a handful of children, we are jeopardizing the self esteem of the vast majority of others. The easiest but significant change the schools can make is to rename this program something else along the lines of, “Competitive Education Program”. But not Gifted and Talented – please.
  3. Moreover, Gifted and Talented is a statistically inaccurate description. In any given society, the number of “gifted” individuals is far and few. In a normally distributed dataset, you can’t expect to have 10-15% of the population displaying true giftedness. (What is true giftedness, anyway.)

Schools, teachers and educators should not be in the business of labeling and classifying their students. Instead, they should get busy building passion and perseverance in students right from their early stages of development.

It is October and the weather turns colder. It is also the time of the year, we have school board elections. This is something that the new board can consider changing as a first step.

Elementary School America is in a competition frenzy. Unfortunately for now, in a wrong headed fashion.

The Dichotomy of Parenting

“Your children are not your children.They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.They come through you but not from you,And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”

— Khaleel Jibran, On Children, from The Prophet

Some of the happiest moments in my life came from parenting. Being a dad taught me patience, rewired my brain, clarified some of my views on gender-equality, re-defined who I am, and gave me enthusiasm and energy to move forward in life with purpose and joy. From the time I picked up my first child at the hospital my life began to change – slowly but steadily nevertheless.

I think the joys of parenting stem from the sense of ownership. You get to believe yourself that you have something that you, only you, would take care of in the same nitty-gritty details and care as you would do. You get accustomed to feeling the pain and pleasure with those of your children. When our proud children bring home praises, we feel the elation with them. When they become lost and lonely, we feel the pain with them. Slowly, we start considering that we own our children. They become our extensions.

One of the agonies of parenting is that you will have to let go of this ownership at some point in your life. The ties that you built up over decades – material and emotional alike – have to be untied one knot after the other.

It is an inescapable fact that life is all about clenching hard and then letting go. The more we clench, the more it aches. Then it also turns out that the only but surely not at all easy way to reduce the pain is to let go. Every time we clench onto our children, have an antidote of letting go. Make sure we release smaller tremors every now and then. Compounding them into a major quake can devastate us once and for all. Especially late in our lives, when we yearn for well-earned peaceful moments.

The art of parenting is just that – enjoying the moments while they last. Hold onto those moments just enough to be an effective parent – just enough to make them moments to cherish and then, let go. This will prepare us for the inevitable parting as they grow up and navigate their world.

Letting go: easier said than done. Hardest of all is to live by it.

Book: The Dog Who Cried Wolf

The Dog Who Cried Wolf

This is one of my favorite books to read to my toddler girl. She loves to hear us reading this book. Week after week, she wants to hear the story. As parents, we never gets bored with re-reading it either. This is about an adventurous dog who yearns to get freedom and his lessons of running away from home. It subtly reminds young minds of lurking dangers of venturing for the greener-other-side. I believe the story and illustrations are done by author, Keiko Kasza, whom I have to give special credit for the beautiful full page illustrations. The best of all, the story ends with a funny punchline. Some books are well received by my little one but others are not. This is one of those gems where my 3 year old loves to participate and discuss es the story. Highly recommended for children of 2-5 years of age.

Amazon link for The Dog Who Cried Wolf.