Learning to code is about both hard and soft skills. Of course, the technical skills – like using a specific programming language to write (and then play!) a game – are important. But most parents agree that the creativity and problem-solving skills their kids learn from coding are the most beneficial. These soft skills are highly transferable to any discipline, setting kids up for whatever path they choose.
Contrary to popular belief, creativity is a learned skill. Like any skill, some are born with more natural talent, but anyone can improve their ability to be creative. More often than not, the “naturally creative”’ in their adult years were those who showed early signs of creative thinking and were encouraged to pursue developing their creativity. What this means is that anyone can learn to be more creative, even adults. Of course, starting early always helps.
Sam is in kindergarten and learning to code in an interactive game format. The game asks Sam to move a monkey towards a treasure chest full of bananas. First, Sam looks at the path the monkey has to take and thinks about what could be the correct sequence of moves. Sam decides on a sequence and tests it out. It’s almost correct, but the monkey doesn’t quite find the bananas. Sam considers where the sequence went wrong, and tries again with a new sequence. Success! Sam progresses to the next level.
In this example, Sam is using a block-based method to learn to code. Without realising it Sam is learning the fundamental coding concepts of sequencing and loops. Moreover, Sam’s process to work out the correct sequence demonstrates many elements of creative thinking. First, Sam has to think about the end goal – getting to the treasure chest. Then, Sam brainstorms ideas on how to achieve the goal, selects the most promising it, and tests it out. If it goes wrong, Sam works backwards to identify mistakes before testing out a new idea. Sam is brainstorming and experimenting – essential qualities of creative thinking.
The essential creative process in learning to code is the same for all student ages and abilities. Whether taking beginner or advanced topics, or learning via blocks or text-based coding, students who learn to code must iteratively work toward their vision by testing out their ideas, and solving problems along the way.
Coding can be one of the best ways to learn to exercise our creativity. The more that we exercise our creativity, the better we get. As Maya Angelou once said: “You can’t use up creativity, the more you use, the more you have”.