Children and Tech Education: The New Foreign Language

by Modis on September 22, 2016

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Little child learning tech education on a laptop.Childhood tech education is seeing some phenomenal innovations that are preparing younger generations for a world run by IT. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and information technology occupations are on the rise, projected to grow 12% from 2014 to 2024—faster than the average for all professional occupations. Furthermore, the annual salary is a whopping $45,000 higher than the median for all occupations. These stats alone make tech a very promising career path.

In this growing field, there are efforts by tech-focused individuals, companies, schools and organizations to get the attention of younger generations, paving the path for children to become future IT pros. More and more products that teach tech education are being released to appeal to kids and help build their skills. With learning anything new, you must first learn the language. And if technology has an official language, it’s code.

Tech Education Adopts a Fun Approach  

So, what’s the right age for kids to begin learning code? The opinion varies, with products aimed at kids as young as two and other products for those in their early elementary years. This makes sense, as learning to code is similar to picking up a second language, and the best age range to begin learning a second language is between two to seven.

What’s the most effective way to teach children about coding? There’s an array of proven tools to choose from, ranging from apps to games. The good news is that not all of these products require screen time, which parents are encouraged to limit early in childhood (read recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics).

Here are 10 top-rated and inventive ways to teach tech education and develop programming skills in children, along with the recommended age ranges for each:

1) Swift Playgrounds

On Sept 14, 2016, Apple released this new app, which grew from the coding language Swift launched in 2014. Designed for iPads, this app appeals to young coders and teaches them basic coding skills. It offers lessons and challenges with animated characters and allows children to create their own playgrounds.

For ages 12+

2) Hello Ruby

Hello Ruby is a picture and activity book that introduces programming basics. It has since extended online to exercises, games and apps where children can learn about computers, technology and programming.

For ages 5+

3) Code Monkey Island

This board game teaches kids the logic of computer programming by guiding monkeys around an island and having them compete over bananas. Players apply programming concepts to avoid hazards and reach certain goals.

For ages 8+

4) Hopscotch

Hopscotch, an app for iPhone and iPad, teaches the basics of programming by allowing children to create games, stories, animations and designs using a block-based programming language. They can publish their own games for others to play.

For ages 9-11

5) Scratch

Scratch is a programming language and online community that allows kids to create games, animations and stories that they can share with others.

For ages 8+

Note: ScratchJr is another version of the popular visual-programming language, revised for ages 5-7.

6) Lightbot

Lightbot is available for multiple devices and allows children to play as Boybot or Girlbot as they solve puzzles, directing a robot to light all the tiles in various mazes.

For ages 4+ 

7) Move the Turtle

Move the Turtle is an app for iPhone and iPad that stars a friendly turtle and teaches children the basics of creating computer programs in a graphic environment with challenges and rewards.

For ages 5+

8) Code.org

Code.org is a non-profit that launched in 2013 dedicated to expanding access to computer science and increasing participation by women and underrepresented students of color. Code.org’s K-5 courses blend online courses, implemented within Code Studio, with “unplugged” activities, which don’t require a computer.

For ages 4+

9) Tynker

Tynker is an online tech education system designed to motivate kids to translate their ideas into games, projects and animated stories. They also have new Minecraft modding courses to appeal to a child’s passion for Minecraft. They offer self-paced courses, mobile puzzles and coding camps.

For ages 7+

10) Robot Turtles

This board game introduces basic coding concepts. Children pick their favorite turtle and use the instruction cards to go through the maze to step on a robot jewel. Everyone who gets a jewel wins. They have expanded to now include an interactive eBook.

For ages 3-8

 

It’s clear that early adolescence is a critical time for tech education, including programming and the math and problem-solving skills that accompany it, but parents must decide how early is too early and which tool(s) to use. Thankfully, there’s a multitude of programs and games available, with the options only continuing to grow.

Have any thoughts? Let us know if you have experience with any of the above or recommend another great tech education tool for children to learn coding.

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