When I learnt coding, it wasn’t even called that. It was taught as ‘computer programming’, and the language we learnt was QBASIC. Millennials, do you remember our hour of code?
It was a class and an exam, not much more. I didn’t live such a digitally frugal childhood, but context wasn’t such a thing either. ‘Why should I learn how to program?’ ‘Because, the world will depend on computers, so you need to know.’ Conversations went something like that.
Clearly, that’s some distance from the questions I’m trying to tackle here–does coding help the environment? If so, how? And, how can we talk to our children about this relationship?
I’m glad that terms like ‘sustainable development’ and ‘carbon footprint’ have become part of the pop-culture vocabulary of young children. They’ve become cool, and that’s extremely good for the world at large. It gives us the opportunity to move towards goals that require the collective effort of societies. But, how exactly is coding linked to this?
Green Coding is a term that’s been coined recently to refer to programming code that has been produced and written in such a way that minimizes the energy consumption of software, thereby limiting its potential environmental impact. The telecom industry, for example, is often regarded as one of the big contributors to carbon emissions, globally. How? Because it takes a lot of energy to power mobile networks.
One of the ways in which countries can reduce these emissions is by energy-efficient hardware and software. The more code there is to process by a device, the more the carbon emission. So, what’s needed is cleverly written code that doesn’t require too much processing, thereby reducing the net carbon emission.
This sits at a peculiar intersection: there is a need for a generation to CARE about this problem, and a need for them to have the skills to provide solutions.
THIS is exactly where play comes in. A well-built coding toy, like Plugo Coding, which focuses on making coding a language of daily thought, can lay a valuable foundation.
By getting children’s foundational experiences with code to be enjoyable and relatable, it builds a lifelong interest which can greatly contribute to the collective effort needed. Positive childhood associations make things ‘close to the heart’. When something is close to our heart, we’re more likely to develop a creative relationship with it.
In the grander scheme of sustainability, this matters a lot!
Coding for Sustainable Development
Once children have positive foundational experiences with something, they start applying it in inventive ways to the world around them. With coding, this is likely to happen if it’s approached as an art form and not just a ‘tech’ skill.
When children feel it’s a creative activity, they’re inspired to create magic with it. That’s when change begins, in areas like sustainable development.
There are now platforms like Battery-free Make Code built specifically for this purpose. They enable kids to apply code to electronic devices that harvest energy from ambient sources like vibration, movement, radio transmission frequencies and the sun. The idea is to offer children a chance to learn coding, and concepts about sustainability and energy at the same time.
This is the foundation for sustainable computing and the ‘battery-free’ future of tech devices. It’s also content that is slowly becoming part of STEM curricula across the United States, Europe, and many parts of the world. But, how do children start developing an artistic perception of coding?
That happens when it mimics the rangeless nature of play. This is WHY we built Plugo Coding. To bring out the cool and the curious in coding; not just the ‘learning’ aspect. That happens anyway. We built Plugo Coding so kids can understand, appreciate and participate in the amazing possibilities of coding.
Answering questions through play
‘Why does pizza go in the trash bin, but banana peels in the compost bin?’ That question can be answered in textbook fashion, with facts and numbers, like it was to many from my generation. Or, it can be answered through a coding game, where a child has to code choices and actions for choosing the right litter bin. With the right choice, comes the relevant nugget of information.
Which one do you think would make learning easier?
Whether it’s a platform like Scratch or a gaming platform like Roblox, what’s amazing is the sheer collaborative power that coding can unlock. Kids all around the world can share and participate in each other’s ideas. This could be through a multiplayer game about saving fish from plastic, or creating a simple program that illustrates the difference between equality (providing everyone with support the same way) and equity (giving everyone the support they need).
By placing children in this connected loop, coding facilitates a global mindset and awareness of problems that aren’t ‘immediate’ to their surroundings. THIS is the sense of care that also informs a collective ownership of the earth.
Is Plugo Coding ‘just’ a coding toy? Yes, it is. Is it also an incredibly well-engineered vehicle that facilitates a logical approach to the world’s problems? YES, it certainly is. And, it does so by harnessing the near-limitless cognitive potential of play. It’s a toy that doesn’t limit itself to the ‘skill’ of coding; rather, it helps children build an affectionate relationship with the logical thinking that drives code.
The environment conversation
So, can coding actually help the environment? Yes, most certainly.
Coding can create simulations of environmental systems, which helps researchers understand how they work and identify areas where improvement can be made. Energy management is another area where coding will play a huge role. Think of ‘smart’ thermostats, which can be controlled remotely, and allow users to save on their heating bills.
Or even the idea of a ‘smart’ shower, which optimizes water usage based on centralized limits for a home. If you want a bit more shower time, then learn to save while washing the dishes! Imagine a system to regulate that. It needs code. That’s how it’ll become a part of sustainable living, on a daily basis.
Further ahead, we’re also looking at the rise of ‘green’ cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin Green and SolarCoin which are designed to reward users for investing in renewable energy. They could play a significant role in promoting sustainable development in the years ahead.
There are many deep applications of coding, when it comes to sustainability. But that’s not the scope of this article. It’s about how to make these green coding applications relatable for kids. One of the best ways is to simulate these scenarios through play. Think of each of the applications described above:
- Environmental systems and monitoring:
Imagine a game where the objective is to balance out elements of an ecosystem to ensure it thrives. When working against other constraints, a child has to make informed decisions which can be complex.
- Smart thermostats or showers:
Imagine a game where there’s a defined water limit. The objective is to write simple start-stop programs for the use of water by household devices and ensure all chores are complete. Overshoot the limit, you lose. If you win, onto the next sustainability challenge.
- Green cryptocurrencies:
Imagine a game where the objective is to run a business; you have to work with green currencies alongside regular ones. There are supplies like solar panels but the player has to decide on where and how they get used. Strategic thought and subsequent coding achieves this. Based on the decisions and results, you accumulate green currencies which can then be cashed in towards a particular ‘cause’ close to your heart. For example; a reforestation program near your home.
Obviously these examples are half-baked, so don’t smite me for that. The point is, a child’s language IS play. Through that, we can have any conversation, including an environmental one.
Plugo Coding was built with that viewpoint. It wasn’t designed as an early start for a career in coding. It was built to make logical thinking part of a child’s ethos. Whether they decide to apply that to AI-driven art or sustainable initiatives is up to them!
Green Coding and cultural context
Coding is modern teamwork. It’s a way to unite creativity and efforts, beyond geographical limitations. Kids can tap into this sense of teamwork when it takes the form of play.
Imagine a game, where kids have to come up with ideas for an environmental problem. Let’s consider something as universal as climate change. If the objective of the game is to create sustainable solutions (essentially, an algorithm) so that a central protagonist does not fall sick, kids will tend to come up with ideas based on their own surroundings.
A child from the alpine (landslide and avalanche prone) state of Himachal Pradesh, India, might think of more no-vehicle zones and walking paths. A child from a city of the lower plains may think of planting more trees of a certain species, or rewards for using electric vehicles. My point is, coding–in the form of gameplay or simple logical thought–allows children to think of environmental problems with local context. Technology allows kids to share such ideas, whether on coding platforms, gaming platforms, YouTube, or elsewhere.
This fosters a sense of oneness with the world, and a need to be creative for it. When designing Plugo Coding, this was a key point of focus–a creative, playful and personalized approach. That tends to enable empathetic and culturally-specific solutions in the future.
Sustainable development is a massive global exercise. One that should go well beyond textbooks, salient features and powerpoint presentations. It needs public (and personal) sentiment behind it for genuine commitment. Accompanying that, it needs a thought process that can break problems down to find solutions.
Green coding sits at that intersection. There’s a need to make it more accessible, diverse and playful. Once it feels like a creative adventure, much can be accomplished. Plugo Coding delivers a foundational experience which makes children appreciate, understand and apply logical thought in wonderful, whimsical ways.
That’s where the language of change, as regards coding for a sustainable future, begins!