Michael Reilly, New Scientist:
Lorna is 4, going on 5. I’ve never met her before, but her eyes light up when she sees me. She rushes over, blonde curls bouncing. “I’m going to sit on you!” she declares. I demur, so she climbs into the chair next to me. “I weigh forty pounds!” she exclaims.
I hand her the iPad I’m carrying and the silliness melts away in an instant. A teacher helps her load up an app, gives her a quick tutorial and she’s off, pulling at icons, stringing instructions together, building animations. Lorna is on her third day of learning to program a computer.
Last summer, I was chatting with the president of the Alberta College of Art + Design, and he mentioned that fluency and problem solving with computers was one of the fundamentals that he would like to see all universities adapt. Despite using one every day, most people don’t have any idea how a computer works, and they should.
Teaching programming at an early stage accomplishes more than this, however. When people are taught to think programatically, they are required to use a certain amount of logic to understand if a result can be expected from a particular interaction. They’re required to think critically about why something happens. If they can apply that same thought process to any of their classes, they can begin to more comprehensively understand the complex interactions of world politics, history, math, physics, and so on.