The rise of child coders

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Think it’s cute when a toddler intuitively swipes on an iPad? Just wait until they learn JavaScript.

Film director Lester Francois and his partner Anna Brady saw the rise of skilled child coders first hand when they made the documentary GameLoading. As they shot this film about indie gaming, the pair were struck by eager kids in Japan and Canada mastering complex code tasks that would intimidate many adults.

‘It was incredible to witness really young kids grasping the concept of coding. Even five-year-olds were making games,’ Francois says.

He drew the conclusion that it was important for this generation of kids to master code. ‘It’s like learning to play an instrument – you may not end up pursuing a career in music but you now have an appreciation for music and the craft,’ he explains.

Francois believes that knowing how digital tools work will ensure the next generation does not consume technology passively. ‘Somewhere in these coding classes is the next Edison or Picasso,’ he adds.

Here in Victoria primary-aged children are asking for coding lessons and the Victorian Government has committed $21.6 million over three years to help teachers deliver new subjects including coding. But some institutions aren’t waiting for the changes to roll out. Deakin University project officer Barry Plant works on the Geelong-based Successful Students STEM program, which supports science, technology, engineering and maths teachers to integrate coding and mechatronics classes into their lessons. Plant says that while coding is not going to suit every child, it is ‘a 21st-century skill’.

‘Students are requesting this. They want to know how to write apps and program games,’ he says. Plant adds that a major challenge is skilling up teachers to support those students who want to learn code.

Find out how to pursue a career in game design, computer programming, web development and more with Deakin University’s Information Technology courses.