Last week I asked you to help your kids understand how much human brilliance went into creating a world where we can ask for a portable touchscreen tablet that connects to the Internet—and reasonably expect to get one—for Christmas. This week is Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek), so I’m asking again: Would you teach your kids to read without teaching them to write? No. But that’s what lots of people do with technology. We give kids a phone, tablet or computer and let them use it, but we never even suggest that they learn to program it.
Software coders contributed to the computer I’m writing this on, the phone I use 30 times a day, the website I just shopped on, and the economic growth of the last 50 years. I want my kids to know how to code. It’s not even that hard. And it’s certainly a necessary skill for the future. Computer programming jobs are growing at twice the national average and are among the top-paying jobs available.
I'm not alone in wanting kids to learn how to code. Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter all agree on how important this is. But 90% of schools don’t teach it. Less than 2.4% of college students graduate with a degree in computer science, and not a single U.S. state has computer science as a graduation requirement.
Step up. Help your kids learn this essential skill. And sign a petition to get schools to teach it. Head over to Code.org, watch the video (above) and get in the game to raise awareness about the importance of putting computer science classes in schools, and to encourage 10 million students to join the “Hour of Code” campaign this week.
If you're still shopping for holiday gifts for your kids, help them to think of themselves as creators—writers—of the future, instead of just passive consumers—readers—of its innovations. Here are some toys and games that will inspire their creativity and help them see themselves as builders of technology.
Bookmark this programming language and online community and help your youngster learn to program and share interactive media such as stories, games and animation with people from all over the world. It teaches kids to think creatively, work collaboratively and reason systematically. It also helps them learn to code—and code to learn.
This site lets kids click and drag to create animated movies and stories. Got an iPad-toting younger child (6 to 8)? Install the mobile app.
A dollhouse—with circuitry—that encourages girls to build structures to meet their own vision. Created by two female engineers determined to inspire a generation of girls to become engineers.
This set of building blocks appeals to a girl’s desire to tell stories as she plays. Also designed to inspire the next generation of girls to think of themselves as engineers.
Playing games is fun, but building them is creative. Help your kids tap into their creativity and get them excited about computer engineering with this game-design tool that lets them build their own video games in minutes. Available for PC or Xbox.
Take that impulse to build things with blocks into the world of robotics with the programmable robotics kit from Lego. Or install the app on that new tablet and use it to help your teen think like a programmer.
Christina Tynan-Wood has been covering technology since the dawn of the Internet and currently writes the Family Tech column for Family Circle. You can find more advice about buying and using technology at GeekGirlfriends.com.