This week is Computer Science Education Week! I have been trying to get my 11-year-old son to program as a way to combat his love of screen time. It turns out that he likes making his own games so it’s a win-win situation.
We started off when he was in third grade — he’s now in 5th grade — with a small group of boys learning Scratch with a high school student who tutored them. When the boys mastered Scratch, their tutor moved them to Processing, which is a version of Java (as I understand it).
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Processing is a flexible software sketchbook and a language for learning how to code within the context of the visual arts. Since 2001, Processing has promoted software literacy within the visual arts and visual literacy within technology. There are tens of thousands of students, artists, designers, researchers, and hobbyists who use Processing for learning and prototyping. It’s also free and open source.
At this point, my son worked mostly 1:1 with his tutor. They would laugh for an hour while making funny modifications to a game called Rubber Ninjas. My husband and I would overhear them talking as they programmed and it sounded like Greek to us!
My son’s tutor has since graduated and gone on to college. I’ve been trying to keep my son programming but in a fun way. This has included iDTech Camp for Minecraft and Minecraft with Java. My son goes to day camp one week every summer to learn something techy with his friends. We are finding that one week is the right amount for him and he does not like to repeat a class. This summer, he will be learning an autocad program so that he print 3D. My son also liked the Youth Digital Java with Minecraft online classes though he still needs to complete it.
All three of my kids participated in Hour of Code through their school last year. Even though only my 5th grade son has learned to program, my 8th grade daughter also complained that the level was too easy. I’m just glad that they are getting exposed to programming at school, but finding the right level, like reading, is the key to keeping them interested.
Another idea for a fun way to learn programming is US First, Robotics Team competitions for kids. You’ll need an adult to run a group and one that is techy is probably best so that’s the challenge! If I were really good, I’d set one up for my daughter who is showing more and more interest in STEM these days!
STEM and girls is something that needs nurturing. Adafruit’s Limor Fried talks about why writing code is “like being able to write your own story in technology.” As one of many women in science, tech, engineering, and math (STEM) careers, she’s featured as a part of Google’s Made with Code, an initiative to inspire more girls to explore computer science.
How about you and your kids? What kinds of things are you doing for Computer Science Education Week? Please share!
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.