Coding for kindergartners? Pinellas County tykes are learning computer programming skills

Award-winning teacher Kali Kopka leads charge

CLEARWATER, Fla. - They barely know the alphabet. Dressing themselves? Please.

And yet the 5-year-olds in Kali Kopka’s class can program robots to dance on a page.

“Thinking of kids today, technology, robotics, iPads, computers is what really gets them excited,” says Kopka.

Coding for kindergartners? Considering eighty percent of jobs right now require some tech skill, maybe it is not such a crazy idea.

The award-winning Kopka, who teaches at Leila G. Davis Elementary in Clearwater, is leading the charge.

“The teachers I always remember are the ones who did things differently,” says Kopka. “You have to learn your ABCs in kindergartner to read a chapter book in middle school. Coding is kind of the same.”

Much like its wee students, the coding program is young. But Pinellas County Schools is focusing more on STEM programs for other grades, where robotics are also a focus.

And let’s not get crazy here: The kindergartners can’t even spell c-o-d-i-n-g. So right now the learning is 100% visual.

Simple buttons and simple commands. And lots and lots of toy robots with cool names: Bee-Bot and Dash and Ozobots.

“Even your students who don’t love school, don’t love reading – this hooks them and gets them excited,” said Kopka.

Yes, Kopka’s “digital citizens” will learn their letters and play with glue and make Mother’s Day cards. But they will also gear up for tech-intensive future.

“The kids in my kindergarten class right now will be doing a job that hasn’t been invented yet,” noted Kopka.

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