About a year ago, I noticed Rahni becoming more advanced in Minecraft, ie., being able to play in survival mode without dying. She was able to do this because she has researched strategies and tips. Through the help of You Tube, the Minecraft Essentials books, a week long summer camp devoted to Minecraft, and other websites, she was finally able to grasp the concept and make the game more enjoyable. While I was hugely impressed by her ability to figure things out and research online different strategies, I was growing more and more concerned with the amount of time she was spending playing games.
Then it hit me.
Me: Rahni, do you want to learn about computer coding?
Rahni: What’s that?
Me: It’s teaching you language to tell the computer what to do in order to do things like make games and websites.
Rahni: Like Minecraft?
That was easy.
The hardest part is finding where to start and most importantly, affordable options.
From my research I have found so much useful information and I’d like to pass this information off to you.
Since there is a projected increase of STEM jobs in our country between now and 2020 of 14%, there is a push in the school system to have more programs and material in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics so that our children are prepared to take those jobs. I think that this is awesome because our children will benefit greatly from having a strong foundation in all of these areas. However, the truth is that many of our children, especially those that are African American and/or poor, will not get the support and instruction that is needed in order for them to be successful. As we all know, there is a huge disparity in income and access to resources causing it to be extremely difficult for children of lower income homes to be able to take advantage of the STEM programs that are available. Many of these programs start in the low hundreds.
Research shows that children in lower income homes actually handle technological devices more frequently than their wealthier counterparts. What does this mean? This means that all is not loss, and that we just need to use our technology in more productive ways. If I’m reading it correctly, it also means that a lot of children have access to smart phones, tablets, iPods, laptops, and desktops but they are not being taught how to use them as educational tools; they’re mostly only using them for entertainment. While this is disappointing, it also creates a huge opportunity.
*Soapbox* I’ve always said that if you have a smart phone that is capable of browsing the Internet and downloading games, then there’s no reason why your child shouldn’t be reading books and learning on it.
To combat the education/technology gap, in some parts of the country there are free and income based STEM programs geared toward marginalized groups such as girls, children from lower income homes, and African Americans. For those of us that don’t have access to any programs like these, and who cannot afford the ones offered in our area, there is the interwebs.
The Internet is chock full of blogs, videos, articles, websites, apps, etc. that have of information on STEM and STEM related resources that can help you and your child. The key is that you have go out there and look for it.
I’ve been researching STEM for elementary school aged children for a couple years now and we have been able to benefit tremendously from the information I have found. From simple tutorials like using Word to more specific subject matter like building robots, there are so many resources to help you teach your child.
Since my daughter’s primary interest is gaming and gaming related subject matter, I will provide you with some of the references that I have found extremely helpful. Some of the websites are free or offer free activities. Some of the websites may also offer fee based courses/programs.
Coding For Kids For Dummies by Camille McCue
Hello World!: Computer Programming for Kids and Other Beginners by Warren and Carter Sande
Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming by Jason R. Briggs
Scratch Programming in Easy Steps: Covers versions 1.4 and 2.0 by Sean McManus
I hope you find more than a few things helpful for you and your child. Please continue to share the knowledge and pass this post along to any and all who can benefit from it.
Also, please, leave comments and suggestions of other resources to add!