If you’re reading this — from your phone, tablet, PC, etc. — you know that technology makes up a huge part of our daily lives. It’s ubiquitous and transcends domains. Are you a musician? Fashionista? Artist? Doctor? Lawyer? Historian? Great! They all link to some component of computer science! That means being able to code will enrich your life and help you grow in your career.
Although having a computer science (CS) background constitutes the glowing gold star on a resume, our public school curriculum does not (yet) reflect this fact. Indeed, only 27 states allow CS courses to count toward graduation, and the majority of schools don’t even offer CS courses.
So what’s a parent to do? You want your child to learn about coding, but schools aren’t covering it. Fear not. Here are our suggestions for coding with your kids at home.
Do an Hour of Code activity
“I’m not a computer person.” Have you heard that one before? To which we respond, “Well, have you ever tried it?” Join the other 150 million folks around the world in an Hour of Code. Several organizations, including Code.org, create and compile engaging, hour-long lessons to expose students (and parents) to CS and coding. Most include documentation and guidance, providing self-paced activities without the need for additional instruction. In other words, ANYONE can host an Hour of Code! Check out our favorite Hour of Code activities from 2014.
Buy or build a robot
The toy robot market has exploded over the past couple of years, at a range of price points. As a result, bringing a robot into your home is easier than ever. In addition, many toy robots come with a wealth of instructional resources—from lesson plans to coding environments. You can even find some great kit options for building your own robot at home! Here’s a list of some of our favorites:
- Lego Minstorms. You’ll get an expansive tool kit with free software downloads and more!
- WeDo. Elementary students can have the Lego Mindstorms experience.
- Sphero, BB-8. Check out SPRK for educational activities.
- BeeBot. Find tips, lesson plans, and more here.
- Dash-Dot. Common Core & NGSS-aligned curriculum are included.
- Ozobot. This smaller, more affordable robot comes with a variety of online lessons, activities, and professional development opportunities.
- MakeyMakey. Explore your electrical engineering side.
- Sew Electric. Design, create, and program your own “interactive toys, light-up fashions, or smart accessories.”
Run a CS course
Companies and celebrities across the country recognize the importance of computer science, and that’s great news for us CSEd fans! Such CS love has resulted in a battery of FREE curricula for running your own coding club. Most are so comprehensive you don’t even need to know much about CS to get started. Take a look at the following:
- CS First. Provided by Google, these theme-based, eight-week courses apply coding concepts to students’ existing interests (e.g., music, dance, fashion).
- Code.org. These leveled, 20-hour programming courses are for students of all ages.
- Khan Academy. Explore a series of courses on topics ranging from HTML to SQL.
- Codeacademy. Access a vast library of free coding courses for a range of ability levels.
Host a dance party
We understand if you want to take a break. That’s no problem; you can still code using naturally occurring algorithms in our everyday lives. One of our favorites is The Programming Dance Party. Working as a family, have your kids code their own dance, program other dancers, and put on a performance!
By the way, the same concept can be applied to navigating a backyard obstacle course.
So get coding with your kids. You’ll never regret exposing your child to computer science!
This article was originally published on the SAS Curriculum Pathways blog on December 4, 2015.