Computers are at the forefront of almost everything we do — and age is no longer a factor in how it shapes our lives.
In the past, technology was more complicated, only pursued by adults who could barely understand it themselves. But with evolution, we see positive changes in efficiency, new understanding, and a bright outlook on how the computer sciences can and will improve our lives in business, in relationships, and even in health.
From coding to social media posts to networking, opportunities abound. Your students see it and want in.
We all want the next generation to be prepared, skilled, and excited about the future. STEM education, particularly computer science courses, are the way to go. And it all starts in elementary school. Let’s give students the tools to succeed. They are our legacy.
What is Computer Science?
When most of us were kids, computers were only used to teach us how to type without wasting paper, how to do some basic coding, and how to research on the internet. Some of us didn’t see this type of skill building until later in life, perhaps in high school or college. One way or another, it was taught, absorbed, and is still useful to this day.
The generation entering their elementary school years has a world of options in the computer sciences we couldn’t have fathomed back then. They are interested, curious, and attentive to the changing landscape of technology, especially in how it will benefit them in everyday life.
That is what computer science is in a nutshell. It is learning about computers, how they work, and how to use programs effectively, including programs that can alter a computer such as coding software. It is order amidst all the chaos.
It is the step-by-step management of digital concepts that allows you to see how things work on a fundamental level.
This sounds complicated but it is no more difficult for the young mind than counting from 1 to 10. There are more involved concepts that do involve intricacies, such as effective coding, but as with all learning tools, computer science starts from the bottom so your student can properly absorb the information and not be immediately overwhelmed.
Effective Computer Science Teaching in Modern Curriculums
As adults, we know our time to learn advanced skills is finite. The world moves quickly, we have bills to pay, and time marches on more quickly than we might like. And we have a bad tendency to approach things with both feet without taking the time to get down to the basics, learn the fundamentals, and appropriately respect the growth process of new knowledge.
Take learning guitar, a new language, or martial arts, for instance. To be great, you first have to be good. Before that, you must be a beginner.
Many of us want to jump into greatness without the building blocks in place, then become frustrated when it doesn’t happen. If that is how we see failure as an adult, imagine how the same approach can affect a child who doesn’t know how to manage those emotions yet.
Computer science for kids has removed this bravado and hubris from the equation. It all starts with understanding problem-solving in the simplest terms, followed by demonstrating how these tricks and ideas can be used in the digital world.
As an extension, these CS concepts, computer programming, and problem-solving skills will translate to many aspects of the future.
Right now computer sciences are often limited to games, puzzles, and teaching about how to be safe online. These are decent jumping-off points, but they cannot be the extent of the lesson plan. Kids need to be challenged, stretched, and molded, driven to grow and succeed. They are little sponges, eager for the knowledge they see and want to discover.
School is designed to prepare students for the future. If the world was to become bilingual, you would teach kids the new language, starting in the simplest terms, and advancing from year to year, until they are fluent.
Computer sciences, specifically learning to code, works in the exact same way. Code is a different, complicated language. Elementary school is the time to start them on the path to being fluent.
Isn’t Teaching CS and Coding Difficult?
Again, it is a start-from-scratch skill. There are a handful of commonly used code languages, plus variants within the code. Think of it like Spanish. Spanish is spoken in Mexico, Spain, Colombia, and Peru. For the most part, much of it is the same, but from time to time the words find a new definition. What means “meat” in one variant can mean “ice cream” in another.
The irony is, while Linux is used widely in programming, including Ubuntu (the language for programming Google), BASIC is always the best to start with for its simplicity.
Schools love BASIC. It is easy to use, understand, and if there is a problem in the code, usually the solution is simple to recognize and correct. For teaching problem-solving to new coders, it is a great stepping stone. This applies to more than just school-age children, too. Even adult coders new to the skill can learn BASIC and bask in success.
Coding is the skill that your kids will need to thrive in the digital marketplace of the future. When you have the ability to modify your workstation to maximize your efficiency, the sky is the limit.
Twenty years ago, digital offices that specialized in computer animation, cyber security, and online management gave their incoming staff the option to modify their computers to make them unique and ensure productivity.
Can you imagine what the world will expect when your grade-school kids are entering the workforce of the future?
Computer Science is the Future
An added benefit to computer science education is that it is not learned in a bubble. Kids can take their new knowledge home, hop on the computer, test their skills, and hone what they have learned. And instead of it being just some hum-drum homework, they will want to see how even the simple stuff they now know can change the landscape of their digital world.
Give them the skills, give them the tools, and be proud that our future is in such good hands.
Shaunda Douglas is a former educator with over 15 years of experience in all levels of education. In her free time, she reads, plays with her dogs, watches baseball, and loves a good nap.