Nesa by Makers on Unsplash

'Coding is the language of the future,' Apple boss Tim Cook wrote on Twitter in 2017, 'giving people of all ages and backgrounds the chance to create something new.'

This year, a report by employment thinktank Glassdoor has shown that more than half of the world’s highest-paid jobs are already directly related to coding, and this trend is set to reach far beyond the booming tech industries into sectors including financial services and manufacturing and healthcare. Simply put, every company using computers will eventually require someone to programme those computers.

As well as equipping people for jobs for the future, coding creates entirely unexpected opportunities that promote creative thinking and a ‘learn by doing’ maker culture.

What is coding?

Coding is another name for computer programming. This involves writing in a particular language – or code – to get a computer to carry out processes. A process normally produces an outcome, which can be as simple as the creation of a set of characters or numbers. With these simple building blocks, you can create something as complex as a website, game or piece of software.

How can I get started?

Anyone can learn to code, and with a wealth of devices and teaching resources available for learners of all ages and levels, there has never been a better time to start.

The micro:bit is a small piece of hardware designed by the BBC for use in computer education. It is about the size of a credit card, with a display of 25 LEDs on the front, as well as inbuilt light and temperature sensors and connectors. It is essentially a tiny computer, but no software is required to programme it. It allows you to experiment with inputting commands to create an output – the essence of coding.

Users can learn how to write basic code on the Make Code site and send it to the micro:bit via a USB cable. By sending code to the device, users can make it do all sorts of things, from measuring the temperature and taking compass readings, to displaying text, numbers and images. It can also be upgraded and programmed to interact with electronic components to create, for example, robots, small games consoles and even electronic musical instruments.

The device is aimed at complete beginners and often favoured by schools for its simplicity. It provides a gentle and fun introduction to coding. The micro:bit has been used for educational projects around the world, including the British Council’s Coding For Refugees programme that supports young refugees entering the school system in Greece. It helps learners to pick up four basic coding languages quickly and equips them with the digital skills that are becoming so essential for workers in every sector.

The Raspberry Pi can be coded to act close to a regular computer, so it’s perfect for more advanced coders. ©

Raspberry Pi on Unsplash

The Raspberry Pi is another type of microcomputer. Like the micro:bit, it can be programmed using code, but it is considerably more sophisticated – kits are available to turn it into something much closer to a regular home computer.

The versatility and portability of the device has led to it being used in many different ways and contexts. For instance, volunteer organisation Hackers For Charity, which founded a computer training centre in Uganda in 2010, uses Raspberry Pis for its educational projects. 'We used Raspberry Pis in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya,' founder Johnny Long tells us. 'The Pis, loaded with content from educational non-profit World Possible and other organisations, served as low-cost digital libraries and kickstarted dozens of educational initiatives.'

The next steps 

Free online schools are the best places to develop your coding skills. There are numerous coding languages to choose from, but some of the most popular and useful languages include Phython and JavaScript.The enormously popular Codecademy has taught over 45 million people and offers tutorials for learning 12 coding languages. They cover not only microcomputers, but also web development, computer science and data science – so you can learn languages relevant to your interests.

The only limits to what you can do with coding are your time and imagination. The digital revolution is happening, and it has never been easier to be part of it.

See also

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