Category: Digital Parenting

5 Interactive Events for Creative Kids

5 Interactive Events for Creative Kids

Creative kids are tough to keep engaged– they’re always on to the next thing! This can be a challenge for many parents who want to fill their students’ lives outside of school with relevant, educational activities.

Beyond your kid’s regular extracurriculars, contests and conferences are a great way to explore your kids’ interests! If you missed our post on STEAM contests for kids, check it out here. Today, we’ll cover six events that make a great enrichment activity for creative kids.

1. LEGO Kids Fest

What? LEGO Kids Fest is a 3-day event filled with fun interactive, creative and educational activities for the whole family. It’s a hands-on event where kids of all ages can make awesome creations with LEGOs and participate in other activities like rock climbing, art projects, and feats of engineering.

Who? LEGO Kids Fest is great for kids and families of all ages!

Where? When? The Fest travels around North America each year. Check their schedule to see when it stops in a city near you.

Why kids will love it: LEGO Kids Fest brings a hands-on approach to creating creators. Through the various activities offered at the Fest, each kid is sure to create something awesome during the event.

2. Young Innovators Fair

What? The Young Innovators Fair is an event that brings science, technology, engineering, and math to the forefront for kids. The Fair offers ten distinct Innovation Worlds focused on themes like robots and coding, with a variety of exhibits, activities, and experiments for kids.

Who? Young innovators ages K-12 are encouraged to attend!

Where? When? The Young Innovators Fair just passed but stay tuned to their website to see when the next event will happen!

Why kids will love it: With over 40 exhibits and attractions, kids are sure to find an activity that appeals to their interests. From launching their own rocket to learning about dinosaurs, there’s something for everyone!

3. Maker Faire

What? Also known as the Greatest Show (& Tell) on Earth, Maker Faire is part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new! According to their website, Maker Faire is a family-friendly showcase of invention, creativity, and resourcefulness.

Who? Maker Faire gives people of all ages a chance to be makers of art, technology, or whatever sparks their interest. They also sponsor the Young Makers program, which gives kids ages 8 to 18 a space to be makers in their own communities.

Where? When? Started in 2006 in San Francisco, Maker Faire has quickly become a national phenomenon, with approximately 150 Faires all over the country last year! Find an upcoming fair near you here.

Why kids will love it: At the 10th Annual Maker Faire, there were ten workshops designed specifically for kids, including a chance for kids to create their own electronic circuit, as well as a station for kids to try their hand at woodworking. Each Maker Faire offers a new, unique experience to inspire kids and adults alike to become Makers.

4. Kids Hack Day

What? Kids Hack Day is a global series of events that give kids the chance to be creative and innovative as they invent new technologies. It’s a one-day event where kids come together to hack and make new uses of everyday items.

Who? Kids of all ages!

Where? When? Kids Hack Day has held events all over the world, from San Francisco to Sydney! The next one is happening in Sweden and you can check out their website for upcoming events.

Why kids will love it: Kids Hack Day encourages kids to think differently about the uses of items they encounter every day. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience for kids globally!

5. USA Science & Engineering Festival Expo

What? The USA Science & Engineering Festival Expo is a national science fair that aims to put the spotlight on STEM subjects. At this free event, over 1,000 STEM organizations will present hands-on science and engineering activities for people of all ages.

Who? All ages!

Where? When? The Expo will take place on April 16-17, 2016, in Washington, D.C. Find out all you need to know about attending here!

Why kids will love it: As one of the largest STEM events in the country, the USA Science & Engineering Festival Expo, is a dream come true for creative kids. It’ll take the two full days to experience all of the activities and exhibits available for kids, so plan accordingly!

Events and fairs are a great way to encourage kids’ creativity and empower them to become creators. Any of these events is sure to be a great experience for the whole family!

Why I Love to Create: Caleb

Why I Love to Create: Caleb

Hello, my name is Caleb and I am excited to share all of the reasons that I like to create.
First, creating is not like anything else. You can take your amazing ideas and digitally apply them into a 3D game, app, mod, or animation. To me, being able to create is like being bilingual. In fact, by 2020, quite a few STEM careers will include computer programming. This is an amazing number and I enjoy being able to learn some basic programming.
Whatever I have created, from a flying reindeer in my mod CookieCraft or making cool cutscenes in my app, Bowler Bash (not yet released!), I have always had lots of fun making my ideas come to life. Every single Minecraft item and every single if/then statement that I’ve programmed was awesome. Here are two more reasons that I like to create:
  • I can let my imagination run wild.
  • Programming is like a puzzle with lots of pieces to put together.
I like to create so much that I’m creating a software company called Cliffdrop Creative. I will use my company to make apps and other programming masterpieces.
Programming is also a great source of entertainment, so when you can’t go outside because you’d turn into a water monster, can’t find your book, and your iPad is out of battery, you can have something that will help you get a job instead.
No rules or boundaries are found in creating. It’s what you want, when you want, how you want. For example, if you want a giant troll that can control the gravity of Jupiter and you have to defeat the troll by destroying all his hot dogs (just an idea!) you can do that. The only limits are the storage space on your computer and your imagination.
If you do not think creating sounds fun, think again. And if it still doesn’t sound totally awesome, I don’t know what will be. Keep creating!

A Parent’s Guide to the Technology Education (TechEd) Space

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

The STEM Gap & the Role Parents are Playing

The STEM Gap & the Role Parents are Playing

According to recent research, STEM jobs are growing at 1.7 times the rate of non-STEM jobs, and the U.S. is simply not producing enough candidates to fill them. Only 16% of high school seniors are interested in pursuing STEM careers, according to the Department of Education.

The White House has created a significant initiative to invest in technology education to help bridge the gap. “Now more than ever, the American economy needs a workforce that is skilled, adaptable, creative, and equipped for success in the global marketplace,” said the White House in a recent report. The challenge lies with pace. Many parents feel the STEM education gap isn’t being filled quickly enough for their kids to be relevant and compete for jobs in the future. Because of that, many parents are being proactive in bridging the STEM gap by finding unique solutions to explore technology, creativity and project management.

Youth Digital conducted a survey that asked parents of kids 8-16 what they looked for in technology education and why. Here are some of the core findings:

  • Parents want solutions that allows kids to explore the technology they use day-to-day. Creating apps, designing a video game or creating their own YouTube channel were cited as the three most compelling projects parents wanted children to use.
  • Parents value long-lasting skills. Coding/development, web design and app design were the leading tech skills parents would be willing to invest in.
  • Parents are driven to bridge the STEM gap to allow for long-term professional success. Parents ranked the leading reasons to invest in tech education for their kids with passion for a future career, professional-level tech skills, and a solid understanding of tech skills rounding out the top three.
  • Parents are concerned about their ability to support students through the STEM gap. We commonly find this to be a leading reason many parents don’t pursue investing in finding tech education solutions for their kids. In our study, parents cited that a student could get stuck and give up, the content may be boring, the work could be too challenging, or they will need help a parent can’t provide as the leading reasons not to move forward with tech education for kids outside of school.
  • Parents are concerned about the amount of screen time that isn’t productive. 83% of our parents said they were concerned about how their kids use technology today and felt it wasn’t utilized productively.

Parent’s are clearly driven in ensuring their kids future success and understand the need for a core technology foundation. While schools begin to evolve their technology initiatives, parent’s have and will commit personal resources in bridging the gap. Technology isn’t going away, and the need to find solutions that allow students to be ahead of the curve is growing.

4 Ways Education Has Evolved Over Time

4 Ways Education Has Evolved Over Time

Education techniques and methods have certainly evolved since many parents were sitting behind the desks. Instead of pens and paper, students now read and write using iPads and teachers use smartboards at the front of the class instead of projectors. Innovation in education has led to amazing changes in the classroom, especially by way of technology.

Leveraging technology for education not only offers a surplus of learning tools for teachers to make the classroom experience more engaging, but it sets the foundation for students to learn important lessons – from how operating technology to creating with it – that will be beneficial as they head into their professional careers.

According to Education Week, public schools in the United States provide at least one computer for every five students and spend more than $3 billion per year on digital content. The combination of talented teachers and new technology creates a more empowered classroom and better personalized learning experience for both students and teachers – a drastic change from the days of composition notebooks and #2 pencils!

There are many ways that technology has changed the classroom. Here are just a few:

  1. Personalized Learning. Technology has made it easy for kids to receive a personalized curriculum, such as the pace of advancement and challenge level, thanks to digital education programs that can be customized for each student. In fact, 93% of education professionals agree that students benefit from personalized pacing to accelerate learning.
  1. Freedom to Create. Say goodbye to the classic diorama project. Teachers today create fun projects that increase retention and boost entrepreneurial interests. Interactive lessons that cater to various hobbies and interests help entrepreneurial spirits shine brighter than structured projects, showing that there is no one uniform way to encourage learning.
  1. Technology is a Constant in the Learning Experience. Gone are the days of just one hour devoted to using the computer – kids are now using computers for each subject throughout the day. In fact, a research study showed that kindergarteners who use iPads scored much higher on literacy tests than students who don’t use iPads.
  1. Learning Real-Life Skills that Relate to Any Career. Schools offer a wide array of classes that give kids the opportunity to explore a variety of interests and spark creativity. They’re encouraged to question, experiment, and innovate in ways that were not previously stressed, yet are important throughout life no matter the field.

Between the leniency to pursue subjects that excite students and more 1-on-1 learning, the classroom will continue to evolve thanks to innovation in technology. These advances will continue to encourage students to innovate and create in ways that will not only build on skills important for early development, but for every stage of life.

Why Summer Fun Can Include Coding

Why Summer Fun Can Include Coding

Summer is right around the corner! However, simply because school is out doesn’t mean learning needs to stop. Don’t worry; we think your kids will actually be excited to continue their education track during the summer months.

Keeping your kids academically challenged during the summer is crucial to continuing brain development. In fact, kids whose brains aren’t engaged during the summer vacation can lose up to 60% of what they learned during the previous school year. By the time school starts again in September, they’ve forgotten fundamental lessons, which may cause them to fall behind other students.

Don’t let this free time go to waste. Summer break presents a unique opportunity for kids to explore their passions and learn skills that aren’t taught in the traditional classroom, like coding.

The number of programming-related jobs is expected to soar in the next decade and the ability to code will become an essential skill for the future workforce. In fact, our recent study found that 42% of parents list science and technology as the most important subject for their child’s education. Starting to code at a young age puts kids at a competitive advantage as it teaches important problem-solving skills that boost student performance in every academic subject.

Coding software that engages kids with creativity is a great at-home option since it allows kids to work at their own pace while creating impressive projects. At the end of the summer your kid will have knowledge in an emerging technology sector and a finalized project to show for their hard work.

But, your kid doesn’t only have to learn independently!

Summer break is the perfect opportunity to enroll your kid in a coding camp. These camps, like ours, inspire an interest not taught in mainstream education, while promoting creativity and productivity. Here are three benefits of enrolling your kid in a coding camp for the summer:

  1. An opportunity to meet other kids interested in coding. Kids can discuss and collaborate on their projects, which teaches vital teamwork skills. Working with peers can also inspire a passion for computer science beyond the summertime by meeting up with their new friends during the school year to show off their latest creations.
  1. In-person access to dedicated, top-notch professionals. Teachers can be more hands-on in person and motivate kids to stay on task by fostering an environment that welcomes curiosity and creativity. These professionals become role models for the campers, as they show kids real-life examples of where coding can take your career.

 

  1. A structured day filled with different activities. Coding camps aren’t just about sitting in front of a computer. The days are broken up to give campers a chance to play outside and get involved in fun games. Kids can exercise minds while still enjoying the benefits of the warm summer months.

Whether it’s an at-home program or a camp dedicated to computer science, you can’t go wrong with teaching your kid how to code this summer. This valuable skill will transcend their academic careers and provide necessary brain development that is essential for long-term personal and professional growth.

Using Creativity to Fix the STEM Achievement Gap

Using Creativity to Fix the STEM Achievement Gap

 

Did you know that the quality of US math and science education ranks 44th in the world? There’s speculation that these lower levels of STEM education could lead to the country’s declining global economic competitiveness, so how do we go about reversing the achievement gap in US STEM education?

It starts with engagement – and the best way to inspire engagement is with creativity.

With the increase in mandated testing, students are under an enormous amount of pressure to learn as much as possible. But, memorization has replaced creative opportunities in many classrooms. Most students won’t be inspired to take an interest in STEM by sitting in a desk and copying notes on abstract theories. Instead they’ll gain a negative view of these seemingly “dry” subjects that they are struggling to understand. This leads to less interest in STEM and a decline in innovations that have accelerated the US as a global economic power over the last century.

Creativity is a vital part of STEM. Rather than simply memorizing theories and consuming technology, we can inspire kids to create with it. In fact, this year’s White House Science Fair featured over 100 students who used technology to create innovative projects. From robots to 3D printers, these students learned how to think creatively about topics in STEM to invent amazing projects.

It’s time to replace the dry lectures in science and math classes with opportunities for kids to explore their creativity within the subjects. Here are 4 ways to bring creativity into STEM education:

  1. Don’t just give kids the answer – make them find it. Rather than simply assigning readings detailing a complex theory that explains how the world works, we need to create lesson plans based around projects. These projects give students the opportunity to figure out creative solutions to come to their own conclusions.
  1. Provide opportunities for real-world engagement. Connecting lessons to real life situations gives kids a better grasp of the subjects while providing them with the chance to come up with actual solutions to real problems. 
  1. Give them the opportunity to bounce ideas off of one another. Setting aside time for brainstorming and discussion teaches kids how to work together to come up with creative ideas. It can even help a student who is struggling with a classroom lesson to understand it better based on a peer’s explanation.
  1. Open lessons up to more questions. Recognizing and encouraging curiosity during lessons by giving students the chance to ask questions gives them an opportunity to explore more in the topics that interest them the most.

The former US Secretary of Education stressed, “Arts education stimulates creativity and innovation, critical for young Americans competing in a global economy.” Integrating art and creativity into STEM education will lead to more innovation and creation that is necessary for not only professional growth, but a crucial component to the future economic success of the US. From kids creating their own digital worlds with coding or making impressive designs with 3D printing, creativity plays a big role in STEM and should be celebrated.

Parents Use Technology to Drive Creativity

Parents Use Technology to Drive Creativity

There are a lot of stats regarding the use of technology by kids. Many caution that device and technology time can be a distraction versus an educational outlet. However, the reality is the way that we interact and engage in the present day is heavily digital. So how can parents find a way to pivot technology digestion into creativity? Here are three ways to take technology and turn it from a passive engagement to an interactive one for kids.

    1. Don’t just play games, create them. Playing games is fun and in many ways reinforces problem solving skills and other key ingredients to development. But what if you could take the passion for playing games and infuse a desire to create them. It’s not unheard of for kids to create their own video games, apps, and more. There are multiple resources out there that can get your kid learning to code including Scratch, Lissa Explains it All, and Kids Ruby.
    2. Don’t just watch YouTube videos, star in them. We are all guilty of spending time watching the most recent video sensation, but what if you become the next YouTube video sensation. Creating videos with your kids can help with project management skills, creativity, story building and more. Don’t just take our word for it, but check out one of our students who has created her own YouTube channel.
    3. Don’t just be social, inspire group interaction. Kids are actively leveraging social media, and while most parents are spending the majority of their time encouraging social responsibility, another great avenue for creating inspiration is through social media. Encourage your kids, along with you, to share their multimedia content they’ve created. So instead of just using it for conversations, start conversations by sharing the latest Mod for Minecraft, or the most recent video creation, or a customized app.

We are living in a digital era, but that doesn’t mean that digital equals consumption only.  Encourage your kids to look up from the screen and envision the next digital project they will create.

Parents: Technology Isn’t Just for Entertainment

Parents: Technology Isn’t Just for Entertainment

Technology presents numerous challenges for parents with young children. From frequent tablet and smartphone product updates to new video games and cartoons, technology plays a prominent role in kids’ lives.

Kids today consume more media and technology than ever before. In fact, those ages 8 – 12 spend an average of eight hours per day playing video games, watching TV or movies, checking social media, etc. The various devices, programs, and platforms keep kids quiet and entertained, but the educational value of what the kids watch – typically on multiple screens at once – is disturbingly low.

As technology takes on a bigger role in our everyday lives, the instinct to put a tablet or smartphone in kids’ hands to keep the peace shouldn’t be the norm. Instead, for the 60 percent of parents who admit to using tablets and smartphones to distract their kids, advancements in technology have actually presented the opportunity to introduce technology as a fun learning tool, not a distraction.

Learning skills in technology can turn the next generation into creators, not just consumers. The innovation within technology education has been immensely valuable in sparking this shift inside the classroom, but parents also need to help kids create and ask questions outside of the classroom – both valuable assets in shaping the minds of tomorrow.

Online technology courses empower kids to create their own games and apps, which can turn into profitable businesses. Technology offers endless opportunities for creation, so imagine what kids can create in the future if they’re learning now. As they build necessary skills in technology, kids can learn what their passions are and better prepare themselves for the next phase of their life or even their future professional careers.

Some parents believe that teaching kids with their gadgets is a way of “tricking” them into learning. But, 9 out of 10 parents want their kids to learn basic skills in technology. So, why not provide children with the opportunity to learn necessary skills for the digital age via mediums that they already enjoy?

There are three main areas where technology education provides numerous advances for kids, planting the seeds for passion and professional success and even the beginnings of an entrepreneurial mindset:

  1. Literacy for the digital age:Technology is an integral part of almost all industries, from healthcare to transportation. Accordingly, proficient technology skills and knowledge are critical assets for students’ future economic opportunity and social mobility.
  1. Job readiness:In 2015, there were more than 600,000 high-paying technology jobs unfilled, and by 2018, 51 percent of all STEM jobs are projected to be in computer science-related fields, according to the White House. Today’s students are tomorrow’s engineers, programmers, and entrepreneurs, and they will need a solid technology foundation in order to be successful, regardless of the industry they choose.
  1. Real-life skills:Technology education offers great benefits to students that translate to real life, regardless of career path. From problem solving to critical thinking, using and learning to create with technology helps kids acquire skills that will aid them in their educational, professional, and personal pursuits.

Teaching tech at a young age gives kids a competitive advantage in the growing digital era. In fact, a study conducted by Google found that early exposure is essential to creating interest in the growing computer science field. These skills need to be fostered not only at home, but also in the classroom.

Parents who encourage their kids to create and ask questions outside of the classroom fosters an atmosphere of learning and creativity. Technology doesn’t need to be mechanism for distraction. Embrace it as a method to draw out interests and hobbies that otherwise remain buried when kids simply consume technology instead of using it to create.