A little while ago, I spent 2 full-days at the Ann Richards school for young women leaders introducing real coding to 7th grade students. What an amazing opportunity to contribute back to the community.
Ann Richards School (ARS) is a one-of-a-kind school. It’s a public all-girls school of choice that serves grades 6 – 12 for the Austin Independent School District. 100% of the students are accepted to college. More than 60% of the students are the first generation college bound. Students wouldn’t have these opportunities available to them, if not for ARS.
Below are some pictures from the workshop.
A couple of weeks after the event, I got these plethora of hand-written thank you notes. I was speechless that those kids took the time to make this and mail it to me.
Preparing our children for future is to prepare them for jobs that don’t exist yet.
One area that will open up some very interesting jobs and careers over the next 10-15 years is driverless cars.
And, driverless cars is mostly software.
Last week, I met this interesting team that demonstrated the core construct of driverless cars. Even though they are doing it for educational purposes, it explained the core idea pretty well.
The car is basically taking pictures and sending sensory information to a computer. After computation, the computer sends information back to the car on how it should move.
It is a Python program that does all the computations on the information received and converts it back to usable commands to be sent back to the car.
If you think about it, bulk of the challenges on making this reliably work is all in the software.
If your son or daughter would like to work on driverless cars, it is more likely they would be working on software. Even if they work on hardware parts of the project, it is impossible to be effective without understanding software.
There in lies the need and the promise of getting our children to learn to code.
In the swirling world of technology, most parents know and they want coding classes for kids.
But some parents still construe learning to code as becoming a programmer. While it may be true for a few kids, attending programming classes early in life develops many skills that don’t necessarily develop through the traditional education system.
Kids should learn to code because certain benefits of coding help to build a foundational shift that is much needed in today’s world of technology.
Whether we read our favorite book, make our shopping list (remember our dear Alexa?), or talk to our friends (yes, I mean Whatsapp!), we use software apps. These apps enable us to do everything in a more fun-filled way.
To fully understand the benefits of coding for kids (other than landing a high paying job), we asked many educational leaders one question:
What would you say is the single most important benefit of a child learning to code?
Here is what we learned.
Carol L. Fletcher, Ph.D.,
Deputy Director, Center for STEM Education
The University of Texas @ Austin
“Coding is uniquely beneficial for students because it combines two kinds of learning experiences that are often separate in traditional schooling. Systematic problem solving, logical thinking, and iterative design principles can be paired with creativity and a student ownership when kids use coding to create projects that have meaning to them personally. Coding by its nature forces students to try, fail, and try again, thus helping kids become critical thinkers with the grit and commitment to persevere because they are motivated by the opportunity to create something truly personal and social at the same time.”
Technology Officer for Learning and Systems
Austin Independent School District
“In one word, kids can learn “Empathy”. It might seem counter-intuitive, but coding is very much about cause and effect. It requires an understanding of how others will act, interact, and react to the program that is created. There can be a strong connection to human values.”
Dr. Shawnterra Moore
South San Francisco Unified School District
“It opens other doors for students who know how to code and helps them so they become more comfortable with problem solving and finding new ways to approach and tackle complex problems.”
DIRECTOR, WOMEN IN ENGINEERING PROGRAM
THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS @AUSTIN
“Coding can help children learn the power of persistence. When a child codes, experiences challenges or failures, problem solves, tries again, perhaps fails again and again, and then eventually persists and succeeds, she gains confidence in her abilities and is more likely to embrace the growth mindset. Being able to persist through challenges and to believe you can figure it out are critical in STEM…and life!
director of instructional technology
round rock INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT
“Students of all ages benefit from learning the foundations of code because the logic, reasoning and computational thinking required translates into better performance in other academic areas. Just like algebraic thinking improves one’s capacity to process and learn new information, the process of assembling code logically to achieve a result requires higher cognitive skills which must be developed with practice. And since most children enjoy apps and games, motivating them to practice these skills is much easier.”
These thoughts from our education experts definitely hammer down one argument – we need to equip our kids with proper coding skills by the time they reach college. But, it’s more important to realize that if kids learn to code, they develop skills that cannot be taught through the traditional education system.
One of the biggest benefits of learning how to code is that kids learn how to blend imagination and creation. Coding allows our little dreamers to be entrepreneurs anywhere in the world. It allows them to bring their ideas into reality by writing the software.
It’s not to say that everyone needs to be an entrepreneur. But being entrepreneurial in attitude and approach to whatever you do, should be the way of life. This is what we need to teach our kids too.
All these essential skills, which are instilled through learning programming at an early age, will ultimately open up more opportunities for our children. They will definitely have the edge to thrive in the future.
Here are 6 charts all middle school parents should see. The charts are backed by data from reputed sources like the Brookings Institution, College Board, National Center for Education Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Gallup and more.
All middle school parents will find that these charts collectively reflect the kind of world our kids will be graduating into.
1. Computing jobs are the #1 source of new wages in the United States.
We also see that the computing jobs are infiltrating in every field of study. Their growth is projected at twice the rate of all other jobs. This means that we, as parents, need to prepare our children with computing skills.
2. 71% of STEM jobs are in computing, but only 8% of STEM graduates are in computing.
3. The lifetime earnings of a computer science graduate are 40% more than a regular college graduate
With computer science skills permeating in every field of study, this gap will increase further!
4. You want your daughter to start computer science early.
The diversity problem persists over time. This happens is because although 91% of girls are aware of computer science, only 44% say they are willing to try it. This is similar for minorities — 53% of blacks and 54% of Hispanics are open to trying it.
5. Students enjoy computer science more than we think.
Out of several academic disciplines, here we see that students actually enjoy computer science. Surprising?
6. Most middle school parents want their child to learn computer science, but schools don’t teach it yet.
While most middle school parents do realize the importance of learning programing skills starting at school level, they do not have access to a structured coding curriculum. You can either check out our curriculum or check out the carefully curated list of 19 websites that introduce coding to kids.
Teaching programming to kids may seem very intimidating, especially when there are so many websites that encourage and introduce coding to kids.
Recently, there was an amazing article about how many parents want to teach programming to kids. But unlike reading to your children or teaching them to count, preparing children to code can feel daunting and unnatural.
The article goes on to explain ways in which parents can prepare themselves and spend time with their children and teach programming to kids. It is not as daunting as it first seems.
But, we realize it is hard. You need a lot of time, a willingness to learn coding and the patience to teach it. Some parents might not have the luxury of that. In that case, explore if CodeWizardsHQ’s might be a solution for your needs.
The below video makes a compelling case on how computer science (CS) is finding its way into every aspect of life. Coding skills have become necessary in every field.
As a result, Northwestern Univesity is doing a $165M expansion of their computer science department. And they are versioning out computer science courses for the various subjects – CS for Journalism, CS for Art, CS for Engineering etc.
The key message is this – Whatever field your child gets into, a solid background in coding will set them apart, provide them an edge and give them the skills to thrive.