Did you know, according to Code.org, by the year 2020, one million computer jobs will be unfilled simply because there aren’t enough people who know how to code? One million jobs. In this fragile economy and rapidly changing world, there are few careers that promise stability. Therefore, it is unaccountable that 90% of our schools currently do not offer computer science. 90%! We are supposedly educating our children to prepare them for the future, yet we are closing off a vibrant world – a world in which they are involved daily. Cell phone, IPads, laptops, banking, websites, online shopping and music, even car engines! We live our lives with technology. So why aren’t we taking the time to understand (and teach our children) how it works? Why aren’t we preparing our children for the future?
Oh, I know. Many of us just shake our heads, falling back one of the following excuses:
The No Skills Approach: “I can’t teach computer science. Sometimes I can’t find the power button on my own laptop!”
The Too Busy Approach: “Who has time? Between school and music and sports, we can’t fit one more thing in.”
The Too Broke Approach: “Our budget is already so stretched. How could we afford one more private lesson?”
If you’re a school teacher or administrator, perhaps you’re using:
The No Skills Approach: “We don’t have anyone on staff who could teach computer science. It’s impossible.”
The Too Busy Approach: “Our schedule is already so tight. We can’t fit in another type of science.”
The Too Broke Approach: “Our school budget is already so stretched. How could we afford it?”
If you identify with any of these reservations (or even if you don’t!), I challenge you to take part in National Computer Science Education Week and participate in the Hour of Code, offered December 9-15 for the exorbitant price of absolutely nothing. This webpage offers a wide variety of easy-to-use interactive coding tutorials for all ages and interests. There is even a category for kids who don’t have access to a tech device. That’s right – you don’t even need a computer to learn code!
Eva is incredibly excited. You can choose programs that contain computer code in digital building blocks that you simply click and drag and snap together. Or you may prefer to learn some actual languages, in which you type in the words and math codes you need to create the outcome you desire. There is truly something for everyone, and I will be the first to tell you: I know nothing of computer coding. I am really quite illiterate. You don’t have to be a computer scientist to provide the tools for your students and children. The abundance of kid-friendly sites out there that are chomping at the bit to teach your kids takes the pressure off of us. And though some have a fee attached, many of them are always free.
Eva has been working with Code.org for several months now, trying the different coding curricula they’ve brought together there. She’s worked with Scratch, Code Academy, and Khan Academy. So far, Khan’s been her favorite. But this week, I’ve encouraged her to only play with programs she’s never used before. Who knows? Maybe she’ll find something she likes even better. She will guest post here at the end of the week to review the programs she tries.
If you have 15 minutes in your day, you have time to learn to code. Try switching out the kids’ video gaming time for a week to coding instead. Or perhaps split it up and expand the limits a bit. If they have an hour of gaming time, then give them 40 minutes of coding and 30 minutes of gaming. If you have no limits on gaming, then perhaps ask your kids to switch over and try coding for even one day. You know your particular needs and family dynamics. The point is, this doesn’t have to be a major time commitment. You can spend as little or as much time as you like and still learn.
So. Let’s recap: Learning to code is free, is easy, and doesn’t require previous expertise. It will help prepare our children for a wealth of interesting, well-paying jobs (or entrepreneurship opportunities). It will nurture critical thinking and problem solving skills. 90% of our kids aren’t been taught this in school. And this week, dozens of clever, fun, engaging computer science programs have all been linked up to one convenient launch page and on top of that are being offered for free.
What are you waiting for? Still need convincing? Watch this lovely video that will inspire even the most resistant. Even Sarah Michelle Gellar (the actress who starred as Buffy the Vampire Slayer) guests on it encouraging you to code, and she knows a thing or two about saving the world, what with being a vampire slayer and all.
Let me know in the comments if you give it shot!