Modern technology has an enormous influence on the changes in our society. Kids must learn how to code and be familiar with coding concepts to thrive in this digital world. Aside from the practical applications, coding gives kids the opportunity to learn how to use technology, solve problems, and apply critical thinking from a young age.
Some of the events that have changed the course of human history were only possible through code. Take the Apollo 11 moon landing, for example. The mission would have been aborted if it weren’t for the flight software that saved the day. A more recent example of real-world coding was the landing of the Mars Rover. Software written by NASA engineers carefully guided the complex steps of the landing process.
How To Teach Coding To Kids
Code is also used in everyday devices like traffic lights, coffee machines, smart lights, and self-driving cars. Students who know how to code can become future scientists, engineers, computer programmers, or pursue other STEM careers that can change the world for the better. Now let’s look at some tips that will help you inspire these future coders.
1. Set Goals for Your Coding Projects
It is important to set realistic and achievable goals for coding projects by breaking each project down into smaller goals that students can reach daily or weekly. Sphero Hero and educator Brandon Hazard suggests using SMART goals in his tips for teaching high school girls how to code:
“A helpful tool to accomplish this is the tried and true SMART goal strategy. Each goal, big or small, should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely (SMART). If you know somebody interested in coding, help them to identify their SMART goals and check in with them about their progress.”
Sphero’s coding and STEM curriculum can help you set realistic goals with your students.
2. Make a Clear Plan
A well-documented project plan is especially important for beginning coders who don’t yet understand how to conduct a programming project. According to Brandon Hazzard in his article on coding projects for beginners, the first step is to choose a suitable programming language because different languages will need different project plans depending on their features.
“The final step is creating a project plan. Include these details in the project plan if the project has any waypoints or a timeframe for when the project is due. Students may be new not only to writing code but also to the processes involved in completing a coding project; they may need structure and adult guidance to manage their time and efforts.”
Find out more of Brandon’s favorite coding projects for beginners.
3. Connect Coding Topics to Other Subjects
Hannah Pals, Sphero Hero and educator, explains that it is important to connect subjects that the students are already learning with computational thinking, she tells us while describing ways to teach computational thinking in the classroom.
“It’s important to expand and build upon kids’ innate computational thinking skills in the classroom because it is a natural process. Kids learn patterns, hypothesize, and more while playing with blocks and games and interacting with the world around them.”
Additionally, the foundations of programming, basic coding concepts, and a STEAM mindset can be used to teach subjects outside of STEM, like in ELA, reading, and the arts. Bridging STEAM and coding with different content areas helps ensure a well-rounded education as students deepen their understanding of each subject.
4. Tailor Computer Science Lessons To All Learning Styles
Students can be visual, auditory, reading and writing, or kinesthetic learners. When students are struggling with STEM lessons, it could be simply because the lessons don’t fit the students’ learning style. Spending time to discover the learning style of each of your students will pay off. Kids will retain the subject matter more effectively, be more engaged in the course, and will actually enjoy the lessons rather than be frustrated with them.
5. Find Ways to Make Coding Fun
Learning doesn’t have to be a grind. In fact, it shouldn’t be. You can change a student’s future by making coding lessons fun. Amanda Vaden, Sphero’s Communications Manager, mentions a few ways in an article on how to make learning fun:
- Make lessons interactive and engaging.
- Have students work together as a team.
- Make learning hands-on.
- Make homework time family time.
6. Coding Takes Time, Stick With It!
Beginners should consider which programming language to learn first based on their goals for learning to code. They should also stick with the language until they become skilled in it because programming languages are complex, and switching languages too early can cause confusion. In an article on how to start coding, Sphero Firmware Engineer Rabia Aslam explains:
“If your goal is to write embedded applications for a hardware device, starting with the C programming language makes sense. If you want to create a website from scratch, learning about HTML and CSS seems like a good place to start. If your goal is to create a mobile application, then identify what platform you want to write for (i.e., iOS, Android, etc.) and then choose the language that goes with that platform.”
7. Develop Your Own Technology Literacy
In an article on technology literacy, Hannah Pals explains how it differs from other types of literacy, and how it’s important to ensure the future success of students today.
“Technology literacy differs from information, media, and computer literacy because it focuses more on solving problems, not researching information, fact-checking, or knowing what tool does what.”
In fact, a 2013 report by the NYC Comptroller’s Office suggested that 77% of jobs would require digital competency by 2020 — and their predictions were spot on. As jobs at all levels now require some form of technology literacy (even applying for most jobs requires technology literacy to fill out an application), our students need proper guidance to stay nimble as the way we work, communicate, and move through our daily lives changes.
The core principles of technology literacy are:
- Critical thinking
- Application basics
- Problem-solving skills
- Becoming a creator of technology
As our world continues to evolve digitally, students’ abilities to obtain, assess, manage, and communicate information in a technology-driven environment will become more important than ever before.
8. It’s Okay to Put Down the Screen
Angela Stone believes that one of the best ways to teach coding to kids is without a computer. Real-life routines can teach them basic coding algorithms. Simon Says can teach debugging. Two colors of beads can represent binary numbers. Cooking is another activity that can teach coding principles because it stimulates students to use logic. You don’t need a screen to teach coding, and these types of lessons also connect coding to other topics students are familiar with.
Which Tools Will Help Me Teach Kids to Code Effectively?
Coding is an incredibly useful skill, and as time goes on, its importance will only increase. Teaching kids coding skills at a young age provides them with a powerful advantage, sparking a passion and laying the foundation for a lifetime of learning.
With Sphero, you can find lessons and activities, tools, and curriculum designed to help foster your students’ creativity and inventiveness. For example, littleBits kits offer a wide range of lesson plans and thousands of invention possibilities. Another example is Sphero’s programmable robots, which are available for all ages and coding skill levels.