Two-year-olds should learn to code, says computing pioneer

The Guardian reports that children as young as two should be introduced to the basics of coding, according to one of Britain’s most eminent computing pioneers.

Dame Stephanie Shirley, whose company was one of the first to sell software in the 1960s, said that engaging very young children – in particular girls – could ignite a passion for puzzles and problem-solving long before the “male geek” stereotype took hold.

“I don’t think you can start too early,” she said, adding that evidence suggested that the best time to introduce children to simple coding activities was between the ages of two and seven years. “Most successful later coders start between five and six,” she added. “In a sense, those years are the best for learning anything … and means that programming [hasn’t] become set in your mind as geeky or nerdy.”

Shirley’s comments came as A-level results last week revealed a striking gender divide in computing, with only 9.8% of those taking the subject at A-level being girls.

Shirley has previously spoken out about the sexism she faced in her early days working in computing and she later adopted the nickname Steve professionally because she found it easier to win contracts when people thought they were dealing with a man. “Companies run by women still have extraordinary difficulty in getting venture capital,” she said.

Since retiring, Shirley has devoted much of her time and fortune to philanthropic causes linked to autism – her late son Giles was severely autistic.

She argues that technology such as robots and artificial intelligence holds huge potential for helping children with autism function in the world and connect more readily with those around them. This view runs counter to the fears of some that the increasing use of robots could leave some sectors of society, the elderly, for example, cut off from human contact.

Read the full article Two-year-olds should learn to code, says computing pioneer

How can more girls be encouraged to take computer studies? Is computing at 2 years old even feasible? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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