In the push to get kids interested in computer science, a lot of ideas are getting thrown against the wall to see what sticks. Online courses have their place, but many efforts miss one critical element, particularly when it comes to attracting girls and underrepresented minorities. And this critical element is pretty simple: peer collaboration. Kids are much more likely to succeed at programming if they do it with their friends.
A great way to make this happen is by joining groups like CoderDojo, Girls in Tech and Girls Who Code. These kinds of organizations are great at bringing kids of all levels together to learn. My own son, who’s eight, started participating in CoderDojo last year, learning programming basics using a free tool developed by MIT called Scratch. With Scratch, kids develop computational thinking skills by dragging and dropping blocks to create simple games and animations.
From personal experience, it’s clear that the kids thrive on the collective energy in the room and are inspired by sharing their apps and seeing what others are creating. Kids thrive when they collaborate. This meetup format also allows kids to return to a like-minded community and fosters a sense of doing something cool.
If an existing group isn’t available in your area, you can always get your kid’s friends together and start one. An easy way to do this is coming right up. Between December 8 and 14, code.org will be hosting the Hour of Code, a global movement reaching millions of students of any age. The simple premise of this movement is that every student should have the opportunity to learn computer science and by starting early, students will have a solid foundation for success. There are over 47,000 Hour of Code events around the world, and more than 30 online tutorials to help educators, parents and communities get kids started. There’s even a Disney Frozen-themed tutorial that has my 5-year-old daughter excited to get started. Anyone can do it, anywhere.
Previously published on Social Business Insights, December 1, 2014.