Innovations in technology, including computers, robots, and cars, have led to significant growth in the STEM industry. However, this growth has not been reflected in elementary, middle school, or even high school curriculum. Schools have been slow to integrate these subjects into their courses even as electives. STEM subjects like coding and programming should be something that every student learns, whether they attend a traditional public or private school or are homeschooled.
A Growing STEM Industry
In the 1990s, computers were large desktops, and cell phones looked more like bricks with antennas than sophisticated pieces of technology. Even as luxury items, these devices were bulky and basic in functions. Today, we rely on cell phones, tablets, computers, and smartwatches to go about our daily lives. The quick rate of change for these items is due to the inventions of scientists and engineers; people in STEM fields.
The National Science Foundation estimates that jobs in science and engineering will have grown 18.7 percent between the years 2010 and 2020. This percentage is expected to have continuous growth for the next decade, placing heavy importance on STEM fields – science, technology, engineering, and math. Because of this growth, skills like coding and programming are just as sought out as typing and computer skills were 30 years ago.
Digital literacy is being able to clearly and effectively communicate and engage with your audience via the web. A key component of digital literacy is coding and programming.
Elementary Coding Curriculum
Despite the growth among jobs in the STEM industries, the curriculum for elementary and middle school students has failed to keep up with this trend. Rarely do we see coding or programming incorporated into everyday classes. Instead, many students must enroll in after school programs or summer camps to get exposure to these skills. Although some school and teachers have been introducing coding to their students, this number does not correlate with the rate of growth for STEM jobs
Learning coding and programming at a young age has the same effects of learning a foreign language. Early exposure to the different languages, sequences, and algorithms of computer programming will provide students with a better understanding when they get older and potentially begin careers in the industry.
Not only does coding and programming curriculum teach student hard, technical skills, but it also bodes other benefits, including problem-solving, communication, and teamwork skills.
Coding Apps, Devices, and Programs
Over 80,000 educational apps are available to both teachers and homeschooling families, covering spelling, reading, and STEM. When teachers or homeschooling parents want to begin teaching their students computer programming and coding, they have a variety of tools and resources to choose from. Here are just a few of the many apps and programs available that introduce coding to students in a fun and interactive way.
- Code.org is a non-profit organization that designed a program to teach computer science, especially to young girls and minorities who are underrepresented in the STEM industries.
- As a coding platform, Tynker teaches kids how to create apps, make games, and build websites while learning coding languages. These courses make learning coding and computer programming fun and easy.
- Acellus Academy offers several courses to their online students that teach them coding and programming. Through engaging and interactive course work, students learn code by making a robot move and dance through various coding sequences and algorithms. The online elementary course is available to Acellus Academy and Acellus Power Homeschool students as well as to teachers who can implement the curriculum in their classes.
These programs are just several examples of the many ways to begin learning the fundamentals of coding and become familiar with computer programming languages. Although they are not created the same, all of them will acquaint children with basic coding concepts.
Basic Coding Concepts for Young Students
Most coding and programming apps, devices, and tools will start off teaching basic coding concepts while slowly building on this knowledge. The following are all areas that a student may get exposed to in the first several years of learning to code.
- Command sequencing;
- Coding methodology;
- Conditional statements;
- Repeat and while loops;
- Conditional logic;
- Logical comparisons;
- And much more!
Typing was once a sought-after skill, but now it is common knowledge. At the rate that STEM careers are growing, coding and computer programming will follow the same trajectory. For this reason, teaching children these concepts at a young age will better equip them with the skills they need to succeed in their future careers.