In 2016, The state of Virginia made history when it became the first state to mandate Computer Science education for all K-12 public schools. Yes, you read that right....Kindergarteners will start learning about computers, code and computational thinking! Towards the end of 2017, the Computer Science Standards of Learning were approved (You can find the Standards categorized by grade level here). This naturally begs the questions:
- What is code and what's with all the hype?
- Why is it important?
- What can I do to help my child?
What is code?
Simply put, code is a set of instructions that you give to a computer to tell it what to do. Code can be found anywhere that computers are found. The obvious places that we see code are a website or a smartphone app, but code exists is so many places in the real world. The ATM machine, a microwave, and an automatic sprinkler system are all examples of other places that we find code. There are several different coding languages, but once you learn one, you'll be able to pick up others. Here's an example of what Python code looks like.
What is Code.org(Hour of Code), CodeVA, and CodeRVA?
Code.org is a national non-profit that runs the Hour of Code initiative to get everyone to try to code for one hour. CodeVA is a Virginia-based non-profit that is run by Chris Dovi. His wife, Rebecca Dovi, has an extensive background as a Computer Science teacher. CodeVA was being formed at the same time as Code.org and when Code.org saw how much progress was already made by CodeVA, they decided to use Virginia as its model to grow the organization. CodeVA is now working hard to train the educators in Virginia. It may take some time, but eventually, our future generations will have the benefit of having computer science in their education from the time they start Kindergarten! CodeRVA is a new high school that was created in 2017 and is dedicated to teaching kids about code using new and innovative approaches to education.
Why is code important?
As smartphones become ubiquitous, technology is taking on a bigger role in our lives and careers. Having some sort of technical background will become a more and more important skill for the 21st-century workforce. That's not to say that every person should become a programmer! Having a basic technical background will open doors of opportunity in so many different fields. Here are some of the other benefits of learning how to code:
- It builds your confidence. When you finish a program, you get a sense of accomplishment and personal satisfaction. It's very similar to that feeling you get when you check items off your to-do list.
- It teaches you patience and perseverance.
- It reverses the relationship you have with technology. When we are consumers of technology, technology can take a hold of us. When we learn how to code, we reverse this relationship and become creators of technology.
- It builds your critical thinking skills and helps you become a better problem-solver.
What can I do to help my child?
The easiest way for you to get involved is to look into https://code.org/learn and go through a lesson with your child. As a parent, this will give you a basic understanding of what they are learning. You might surprise yourself and find that you're actually pretty good at coding! Scratch (https://scratch.mit.edu/) is also a very great program for beginners. There's also various camps and classes throughout the RVA area run by both non-profits (CodeVA, Girls Who Code RVA, etc.) and for-profit companies.