As in all things, once a topic becomes trend-worthy, the space gets crowded quickly. STEM and coding have seen a significant rise in importance as more and more of our world becomes digitally-focused. It’s challenging for a parent to navigate. What is out there to help inspire kids to use technology productively? What is the right fit for a particular kid?
This handy guide will provide insights into what tools and solutions are out there to help parents navigate technology education and find the right solution for their kids.
Let’s first begin by defining technology education (TechEd). TechEd can refer to anything that teachers your child how to use or understand technology, including learning to code, designing apps, creating video games, and more.
TechEd Resources Available
- Afterschool programs or summer camps (like ID Tech, Sylvan, and Youth Digital). Afterschool programs and summer camps have risen in popularity over the last couple of years. They provide kids with the ability to have a condensed technology introduction over the span of a week while giving parents a fun summer kids activity while school is out. Costs vary from $350 to $900 per week.
- Online educational videos (like Khan Academy, YouTube). Educational video resources provide a host of content across a myriad of subjects. It is a self-paced solution that gives students the ability to learn from subject-matter experts and can span videos to written content. Most times these solutions are at no cost to parents and kids.
- Online coding tools (like Scratch, Tynker, CodeCombat). Online coding tools provide a software solution for students to explore coding in a very focused environment. Often times it is a proprietary solution that teaches coding in a gamified ecosystem. Most pricing is subscription with a monthly fee starting at as little as $6/month.
- Online courses (like Udemy, Coursera, Youth Digital). Online courses offer the opportunity to take a more structured course that has a focused beginning and end. In addition, they provide more long-term educational opportunities by teaching the fundamentals of anything from coding to design. Pricing varies starting at $25 to more than $500.
- Robotics and Hardware (like Lego Mindstorms, BitsBox). This is the solution for those that don’t want their kids tied to computer coding only. Solutions like Lego Mindstorms and BitsBox introduce coding concepts with simple commands for everything from app design to robotics. Monthly subscriptions begin at $20/month or one-time fees up to $350.
- 1-on-1 Tutoring (like a friend, relative, tutor). One-on-one tutoring provides a customized curriculum for your student which allows control of pace and engagement.
- Books (like textbooks, how to guides). There are quite a few educational resources like textbooks to help guide students on subjects such as coding, programming and design. This type of solution will be for kids who love reading and learn best when they are reading and then applying what they’ve learned. Pricing varies.
Things to look for
Technology education isn’t a one size fits all. Determining what is right for your family and your kids can be hard to navigate, but here are a few key questions you should ask yourself before pursuing a solution. Also, keep in mind, it may be a combination of many solutions that meets your family’s needs.
- Does the solution hold my child’s attention? This is an important one to consider? Does your child prefer reading to videos? Does he or she prefer learning through gamification or through projects? Considering what will hold your kid’s attention will be an important component in determining the right TechEd solution for you.
- Is it fun and exciting? This more than likely always has to check the box “yes”, especially since you are considering extra-curricular activities outside of a school environment. Finding a solution that engages your kid while keeping it fun and exciting will be necessary to achieve success.
- Is it the right level of difficulty? Has your kid already gained some fundamental TechEd knowledge and you are building on it? Is it moving at their pace? Being able to answer whether or not a solution provides the right level of difficulty may require some trial and error, but finding a solution that challenges your kid will be important.
- Will your kid want to do it in their spare time? This is a big one! When they are outside the classroom, will they spend their extra time learning about coding? Is the content fresh and engaging enough to entice them to want to learn outside of the classroom? Don’t know? Just ask. I’m certain a kid will tell you more about what they want to create to help guide you.
- Does it require a lot of your time? Parents are limited on time, so finding a resource that limits the amount of time a student needs parent support on is important. However, if you are a parent that wants to be actively engaged, there are also limitless solutions that are more of a guide to enriching a parent-led technology education environment.
- Are they learning or just playing? Gamification is great. It helps kids learn, but it’s also important to discern whether or not they are learning or just spending a lot of time in video games that introduce coding concepts, but not actual coding. Again, it’s sometimes challenging to determine from a solution whether or not that is the case, so a little research ahead of time is good.
- What does the support look like? If you are limited on time, support is an essential part of the solution you choose. Is it kid-friendly? Is it responsive to your kid’s requests? What is the availability? Be certain to take a look at the support solution prior to choosing.
Choosing a TechEd solution for your kids can be challenging, but hopefully this guide will help give you an overview of what is available and what may be a good fit for your kids.