With the emergence of new digital technologies, new skills are being bred that have become pivotal for success in school and the workplace. Digital literacy is becoming more than a buzz word and new 21st century learning skills are beginning to be taught in our classrooms in order to prepare our students for the careers they will enter when they graduate. Now, beyond learning Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and how to do an effective Google search, students are learning how to build their own websites, animate, and code. It is pretty exciting to say the least. Google does an excellent job of laying out why coding is becoming such a big deal on their Made with Code website.
Over the past few months I have noticed an increase in parents coming in with questions about coding and computer science learning for their children. Coding is quickly becoming a very valuable and employable skill. So much so that, according to research from the Department of Computer and Information Sciences at State University of New York at Fredonia, computer science is among the highest paid undergraduate college degree and programming jobs are growing at two times the national average. There are now a variety of tools and resources for children as young as five to engage with and start building their digital skills. Some of my top picks are as follow:
- Hopscotch is a simple programming iPad or iPhone app for students ages 8 and above. Hopscotch is an award winning program that students can use to make their own animations, apps, digital stories and games. Price: Free
- Hopscotch School Edition is similar to the Hopscotch app, with the addition of teacher-centric features which improve the seamless integration of Hopscotch as a learning medium. Furthermore, there are no in-app purchases in this version, as all the characters and features are unlocked and available for use. Price: $9.99
- Tynker offers self-paced, online courses to teach children to code. There are versions for both home and school, which infuse step-by-step instructions with mini games, videos and puzzles to teach children the basics of programming. Price: approx. $50 per course or $399 for an entire classroom
- Google’s Made with Code not only showcases disruptive technologies that are being made with code, but also offers free projects students can do to get a taste for programming. They also offer community building resources and events that your child can take part in if they develop a real interest in computer science and stem. Price: Free
- Code.org is another exceptional resource which offers tips for both learning and teaching computer science. They recently held an event where President Obama tried their hour long program to learn coding, to demonstrate that anyone can learn computer science. They offer courses, tutorials and up to date statistics on the growth happening in the computer science industry. Price: Free for introductory courses and tutorials
Finally, Girls who CODE is an organization dedicated to inspiring young women to enter the STEM fields - Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. They offers summer intensives, clubs in your neighborhood and mentorship programs.
One product that isn’t available yet (but I am very excited about) is a new book called Hello Ruby, which is a beautifully crafted picture book aimed to teach kids ages 5 through 8 about computers, technology and programming. It will be an excellent way to prime your children for any of the aforementioned programming activities. The book will then be extended online as an app which will surely whet your child’s appetite for computer science. It is set to be released sometime in October 2015.