STEM Futures & Computational Thinking
There was a time when computer coding was exclusively the realm of adults. Those who planned to pursue careers in engineering, science, and technology were introduced to coding languages, but may not have had a need for proficiency. Nowadays, computers and mobile devices are in 87% of US homes, giving kids and parents even more reasons to explore coding and computer languages.
Learning to code in 2022 is a core skill for STEM-based subjects. Business leaders and analysts tell us that coding will be at the forefront of future job opportunities and lucrative careers. Although prospects for a good job will be important for today’s school-age kids, coding also builds skills that they will use now — and into the future.
Why Computer Coding is Important for School-age Kids:
1. LANGUAGE & LITERACY
“If you don’t know how to program, you can carry on perfectly fine with life. But this is soon going to change.” —Annette Lee, author of Coding Literacy
Children who learn to code naturally build up their verbal and written skills. Like our current use of Latin (for those of you who had to take it in high school), coding is a language that no one is likely to speak, but an understanding of its core syntax and rules help us to more easily pick up other concepts or languages. Coding is a language after all. Each letter, character, or symbol of an alphabet is given a binary formula written in 0s and 1s. These formulas may give direction, or perform a function.
“Digital Literacy” is often used when referring to internet safety and cyberbullying, but it also defines the way we communicate online. In this day and age, children need to be digitally literate to navigate the world around them. Learning to code has become an essential way for kids to prepare for all aspects of life.
2. MATH & COMPUTATIONAL THINKING SKILLS
“Children must be taught how to think — not what to think.” — Margaret Mead
Present-day educators are continually looking for opportunities to embed Computational Thinking (CT) into the curriculum. CT breaks down complex problems by finding patterns and creating process-driven solutions that a computer or person can easily understand. These procedures can then be expressed as algorithms to create precise steps, analyze processes, and sometimes develop insights and predictions.
Computational Thinking and coding are abilities essential to every 21st Century child. Let calculators do the calculating — the beauty of teaching coding to kids is that it helps them develop creative, mathematical thinking. Coding a game or an app is a fun and engaging way to sneak in math exercises, while giving kids a way to resolve real-world problems and explore cause and effect.
Game systems like Minecraft are packed with opportunities for Computational Thinking. Emagination’s Action Game Design also adds elements of programming, and the STEM camp's Web Design course is a creative pathway to coding.
At Emagination STEM camps, young campers are also introduced to coding with Scratch. They create stories and games that team them to think like a programmer using block programming. Block programming essentially involves drag and drop blocks of text-based code, such as functions and sounds, that users can manipulate in the Scratch code editor to make games, apps, and other programs. This entry-level activity gives children easy-to-use tools to understand the fundamentals of coding and Computational Thinking with visual cues. This establishes solid insights for kids who may want to take the next step of coding with text only.
Robotics also merge math and coding skills in the classroom. Kids love creating a virtual friend from scratch and learning how to manipulate its movements. Using addition and subtraction, along with more advanced geometry, math comes to life in the form of a toy robot. As Emagination campers’ coding abilities grow, so do their math skills, resulting in increasingly complex elements to their robot.
3. 21st CENTURY STEM CAREERS
“The median salary for a Computer Programmer is over $89,000, and is forecasted to rise to the low six-figures in the coming years.” — US News & World Report’s 2020 Salary Report
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that jobs for software developers will grow more than four times the average rate for any other career. High schools are trying to keep up with demand; however, coding courses have not yet reached all segments of the US. According to the 2019 State of Computer Science Education Equity and Diversity Report, only 45% of high schools now teach computer science, yet Stack Overflow’s 2020 Developers survey tells us that over 54% of professional developers started writing code by the time they were 16-years-old. So how and where are they learning these skills? Resourceful parents and children alike have found that Emagination Tech Camps have been essential for fostering an interest in coding.
Coding translates into a number of lucrative careers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Cyber Security employees have a median annual salary of $104,210 per year. US News & World Report named Information Security Analyst #1 in their “100 Best Jobs” report, #1 in “Best STEM Jobs,” and #1 in “Best Technology Jobs” for 2020. The publication also named Software Developer as #2 in “Best Technology Jobs” and #5 in “100 Best Jobs” AND “Best STEM Jobs” — with an unemployment rate of just 3%! Indeed’s list of “Easiest Tech Jobs to Get Into” includes UX Designer and DevOps Engineer with average annual salaries of $101,000 and $122,000 respectively.
The latest “new-collar jobs” prove that talented coders don’t even need a 4-year degree to land an enviable job at a top technology firm. In 2017 Fast Company reported that tech companies like IBM, Intel, and GitHub have been pulling talent from extracurricular coding programs and high school partnerships. In that same year, up to 15% of IBM’s new hires didn’t have traditional 4-year degrees.
Whether or not a child has an interest in coding as a career path, learning how to program is a valuable skill to add to their tool box. Mastery of their first programming language will position them to easily pick up different languages, frameworks, and technologies, as well as exercise their creative problem solving muscles throughout their life. We’ve allowed our technology to know more about us than we know about IT. In today’s “Internet of Things,” we must be proactive in teaching kids about technology — rather than passively consuming technology.
“A coding project teaches your child that any problem is solvable, that any obstacle can be overcome with repeated creative effort and teamwork. Could there be a better reason for why kids should learn to code? Probably not.” — University of Texas Austin Boot Camps blog
Have you or your children expressed an interest in coding? Are you looking for creative ways to get your child to advance their math or problem solving skills? Register now for Summer 2022 with Emagination Tech Camps, and foster a love for technology. Learn more at emaginationtechcamps.com