Racing across the U.S. in your taco truck, you must fight off animals mutated by fallout from a nuclear war, and you must also turn them into delicious filling for the tacos you sell inside fortified towns. Your mission: Make it to the Canadian city of Winnipeg.
You are “Gunman Taco Truck.”
“It’s pretty much only a game that a kid would come up with,” says Brenda Romero, a videogame designer for more than 30 years and the mother of Donovan Romero-Brathwaite, the 10-year-old inventor of the game.
And yet GTT already has been licensed by a videogame publisher for Mac, PC, iOS and Android, and may also arrive on consoles. It’s quite an outcome for something born of Saturday programming lessons with Donovan’s dad John, also a videogame designer of note.
Donovan’s situation—access to two parents who are both programmers—is rare. In fact, in record numbers, children are picking up a skill their parents don’t possess: coding.
And according to those responsible for teaching them, programming is just the beginning. What those kids are learning now—what they must learn, if they hope to be employable in the 21st century—is something educators call “procedural literacy.”
“When you learn to code, you start thinking about processes in the world,” says Mitchell Resnick, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor heading up the effort to build the child-friendly programming language Scratch.
Scratch has 6.2 million registered users and is accessible to children as young as five.
Whether it’s understanding how complicated systems like economies work or tackling a problem in a stepwise fashion, coding is uniquely suited to training children not just how to solve problems, but also how to express themselves, says Mr. Resnick.
“What’s fascinating about computer science is that it requires analytical skills, problem solving and creativity, while also being both foundational and vocational,” says Hadi Partovi, co-founder of Code.org, a nonprofit organization that promotes coding education. “I’m not sure there’s any other field that’s all those combined.”
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