The Personalities of Young Coders
Like the larger population, young coders may fall into a variety of personality types. There are a wide range of dispositions when it comes to kids getting started with coding…here are a few of the personality types you may encounter:
- The skydiver type: This type of kid wants to dive right in, trying every line of code, without any specific plan of action associated with his efforts. While confidence and creativity at the computer should be applauded, try steering this kid towards thinking and planning prior to coding and executing.
Here’s an example. A few years ago, one child was very proud of his Scratch “expertise” — which turned out to be dragging hundreds of Scratch tiles and assembling them in nonsensical ways in the program workspace. It took several months to help him learn how to evolve from chaotic habits to conceptualizing an idea and translating it into functional code. Helping this type of child to work procedurally and incrementally, taking pride in completing a project start-to-finish, are behaviors you want to foster.
- The rational actor: This kiddo wants to learn a new concept and then try out the associated code at the computer, one step at a time. This type of learner usually experiences success, but may struggle when confronted with an information gap in which she needs a command that she hasn’t previously encountered. Helping this child to branch out and research on her own, employing a bit of grit in finding a solution, is a habit you want to coach and develop.
- The happy passenger: This child is a bit tentative to try coding — even if he is a game-player or social media guru! He may seem in command of tech until he has to pop the hood and get into the mechanics of writing actual code. He has some tech-savvy, but until this point, he was just happy to be along for the ride. You need to help him understand that you’re going to support his efforts to transitioning from a tech user, to a tech maker — through learning to code.
- The next Bill Gates: This kid loves coding, knows everything about coding, wants to do more coding, watches Silicon Valley, has built her own computer, and has already applied to the Stanford Computer Science undergrad program. Continue to cheer for this kid, help clear the runway for her by removing trivial obstacles (which often exist in school settings), and actively seek projects, competitions, and peer programmers (who may be older) as partners for her.
Regardless of which kids and which coder personalities you encounter (likely all of them!), meet them where they are, and help lift them up to the next level. You have an important role in fostering their coding foundations and building both the hard and soft skills of a coder. Onwards!