'Hello World!'

'Hello World!' - This is the first thing every programmer prints to screen when they start using a new programming language. Why? Because it is a simple way to make sure you can run something and it's just what we do! Printing information to screen is important for when you want to start debugging your code or to see where the code is at, thus the simple 'Hello World!' sets every programmer up ready to write something new.

The first language I ever learnt was JAVA (I did learn HTML earlier but only for web site design). In my first Computer Science lecture at Adelaide University I sat with my laptop following what the lecturer was doing on my own computer. By the end of the lecture I had 'Hello World!' printing to the command line. I still remember the feeling of excitement I had when I saw it on my screen! I had created a program and it printed to the screen!

Before this I had assumed, probably like a lot of people, that coding/programming was boring! Here I was very wrong, because it is exciting. I'm not sure what would have happened if I had been exposed to coding earlier that University. Maybe I wouldn't have become a physicist and then wouldn't have ended up where I am now as a Data Scientist.

Kids these days are exposed to technology A lOT earlier than I ever was and much, much earlier than my parents were. So it's not surprising that kids want to learn coding/programming earlier than previous generations. Is it possible? Can kids learn to code?

Of course they can! And there are ways that us adults can help them learn. The syntax is the easy bit about coding, you can usually just look this up. The trick is learning to THINK like a programmer. This doesn't mean you have to think about everything like a computer, but think about solving problems.

Solving a problem can be broken down into steps, which funnily enough is also how we learn to do things the first time! For example:

"How do I walk?".

  1. Try standing

  2. If can't stand, try finding something to help stand up

  3. If can stand try putting one foot forward

  4. If one foot forward works try the other foot.

We could keep going but you can see the idea. We do this all the time to learn new skills, just not always as explicitly.

For teaching kids coding I was passed a book, from my Mum, called 'Hello Ruby'. It takes kids on a journey where Ruby solves problems step-by-step in the same way that a programmer would think about the problem. In reading through this book I found the story to be both interesting and not 'throwing coding in your face'. In fact, I really enjoyed reading it!

I think this book is a great way to introduce young kids, ~5+ years, to the idea of programming. (My Dad also liked the book - he's a programmer too.) As a book review I would say that if you think your kids might like to know about coding or you're wondering if they will, I would suggest 'Hello Ruby'. Go through it with them and see how it goes. It can never hurt to read another book, or learn something new, even for us adults! If the book works out they also have a website with games and more information!

Happy reading!

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