Coding and programming are all around us and will only get more all-pervasive in the future.
For this reason, many are making the argument that learning to code, or at least have a basic understanding of it, should become a common part of a child's education.
Here we explore why coding is important, what it is, and where you can learn it for yourself.
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Why is coding literacy important?
Coding and coding literacy can be argued to be one of the most important skills for current and future generations to learn. Many have argued that it should form part of a national curriculum on par with a native language, the sciences, and math.
We are surrounded with electronic devices each running uncountable numbers of software that run on code of some kind. Our modern world is also heavily reliant on the internet with workforces being required to be more and more computer literate with each passing year.
It is, therefore, as important to making a living in the modern world as having a good grasp of grammar, spelling, and numeracy.
But as software becomes ever more sophisticated, the general public is being further and further detached from how they actually work. While they are exhaustively designed and tested to be as intuitive to use as possible, how they work is fast becoming something of a kind of magic for all but a select few.
"When [someone] is not code-literate, [they] must accept the devices and software [they] use with whatever limitations and agendas their creators have built into them. How many times have you altered the content of a lesson or a presentation because you couldn't figure out how to make the technology work the way you wanted?" - edutopia.org.
While this might not bother you on the surface, it could have serious implications in the future. Most users are simply trusting the developers that they have only the best intentions when they use their products.
For this reason, many educators are now pushing for making at least basic coding literacy a requirement for all students.
"[Users] are spending an increasing amount of their time in digital environments where the rules have been written by others. Just being familiar with how code works would help them navigate this terrain, understand its limitations and determine whether those limits are there because the technology demands it -- or simply because some company wants it that way. Code literate kids stop accepting the applications and websites they use at face value, and begin to engage critically and purposefully with them instead." - edutopia.org.
What is the difference between coding and programming?
The vast majority of people who hear these terms will often believe they are actually synonyms for one another. In fact, many professionals working in the industry will often use them interchangeably.
In fact, we have done the same in this article.
But there are, in fact, subtle, yet important, differences between them. You will regularly find articles and forums that attempt to discuss the differences with conclusions leaving the distinction a little blurry.
So we thought we'd throw our hat into the ring and attempt to disentangle the two terms.
The term coding simply refers to the process of writing codes. A coder is an individual who codes from one language to another.
Sources, like differencebetween.net, point out that coding is a form of programming but tends to be used to implement the initial steps of a computer programming process.
"The term programming is used in a much broader sense, unlike coding which basically involves writing codes in various languages as instructed." - differencebetween.net.
Coding is important because computers are unable to interact with our native languages. They can only understand machine code which is in binary or hexadecimal.
It is a coder's job to enable humans and machines to be able to "talk" to each other. In this sense, they can be thought of as machine language (binary) interpreters. Coders tend to be involved at the production level, and so, they must have a good grasp of the language they are writing in.
"However, they don’t code on their own; in fact, they receive instructions on what to do and what needs to be accomplished followed by implementation, debugging testing, and QA.
These instructions are generally called “source code”. It’s just a set of written instructions a machine will easily understand." - differencebetween.net.
You have probably already been able to decipher the difference by now, but programming is a little different to coding.
Programming, strictly speaking, is the process of writing a set of instructions for a machine to follow. Ideally to allow an application to run without errors.
"In simple terms, programming means perfecting a recipe – you manipulate ingredients to cook a recipe, whereas a computer manipulates data to accomplish a task following a set of commands." - differencebetween.net.
Programmers, as oppose to coders, create things, develop logic and analyze a problem. Coding is the means of allowing the machine to understand the instructions given by the programmer.
"The job of a programmer is to craft solutions to problems that may or may not occur. It takes years for an individual to become a professional programmer. They can work as developers, coders, analysts, and more." - differencebetween.net.
What are coding and programming and how do they work?
This tends to be one of the first stages of creating a piece of software like an application. Coding is very important in the modern digital world and allows every electronic device you use to work at some level.
Everything a machine does follows a set of instructions (programming) that is written in a code that translates human instructions into this binary code. Every letter you read, each picture displayed, etc has behind it a sequence of 1's and 0's that instruct the machine how to process them in the machine's memory and do something the programmer wants it to do.
A complete set of lines of code behind, say, an image in this article is also generally called a script.
Once development is finished, programmers need to pack all the bits of code (scripts and all) into a coherent program so that a non-programmer end-user can use it. This process requires compiling, testing, debugging and quality assurance prior to release to the general public.
Every app, game, website etc is a form of program. This sounds great, but it can have its flaws.
"Unlike people, computers will do exactly what you tell them to. This might sound great, but it can cause problems. If you tell a computer to start counting upwards and don’t tell it to stop, it’ll keep counting forever! Being a good programmer is all about knowing how to tell a computer to act." - makeuseof.com.
How can I learn to code for free?
If you are interested in learning coding (or programming), there are plenty of free resources you can use. From YouTube tutorials, blog posts, forums, stackoverflow (the best!) and other resources you are in good hands.
Many universities also have free lecture series' you can make good use of. A large portion of these also offers an official qualification for a small fee.
But the best way is to just dive in. Jumping in at the deep end is one of the best, and quickest, ways to learn anything including coding and programming.
Sites, like entrepreneur.com, suggest you check out some of these resources to learn to code for free: -
MIT Open Courseware.