Literacy Your Kids Absolutely Need

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Literacy is fundamental

The definition of a literate kid isn’t what it used to be. Without a doubt, the ability to read and do math is fundamental to any other learning and life endeavors. Hopefully, most schools and parents go above and beyond to meet kids’ needs in these areas. Practice, games, authentic assessments, and real world problem solving provide plenty of opportunities to build these academic tools. When these tools are sharpened all other learning and fun just makes more sense!

Digital literacy

A dynamic type of literacy is evolving in the digital, mixed-media world that our kids are living in. Our kids are ravenous consumers of these digital goods. Whether you like it or not, It takes mere seconds for them to power up your phone, download, install, and get rolling with a new app or game. Given the opportunity, kids are incredible at assimilating previous experiences to unfamiliar digital situations. This is a powerful skill, but the really profound achievement comes when kids are presented with challenges and scaffolding that allow them to move from being a consumer to a creator.

After all, we want kids to achieve the full definition of literacy in the traditional and digital sense: “the ability to read and write.”

Kids’ ability to do the reading part of digital literacy is mostly okay. Kids can consume and have demonstrated they will continue to be able to do so into the future with changing technology.

But, what about the writing? Kids do have innate creative ability. However, the ability to really produce needs to be explicitly instructed and nurtured.

Being able to create gives kids the ability to change the world. Games that entertain or educate, apps that make life more efficient, robots that help with everyday tasks will have a lasting effect on our community. Learning to code and see change happening in real-time because of your effort is a rewarding and life-changing ability that we owe our kids.

What can I do right now to help my kids?

Don’t worry if you don’t know the first thing about computer science or more importantly the first thing about introducing these concepts to kids. There are more and more kid-friendly tools, websites, and apps for teaching kids to code and create with programming. Most use some sort of visual or block-based coding language. Why do we recommend and use this approach? Dan Garcia, Senior Lecturer SOE at UC Berkeley does an awesome job summarizing.

Top recommended languages for kids

Here are our top 2 recommendations for getting kids starting with computer programming. These two web-based services are intuitive and robust enough that kids can get started independently and dig in pretty deep.

Code.org has done an outstanding job putting kids, teachers, and families in touch with fun resources that help them jump in and flourish in the world of computer science.  Why not begin with an Hour of Code?

Scratch makes it a snap to program interactive stories, games, and animations. The Scratch team has created an awesome collection of “starter” projects that can be remixed. This allows students to make small changes to existing code and enjoy the results immediately. Many schools are now using Scratch as part of their regular curriculum. If your child hasn’t talked about Scratch be sure to ask their teacher why not!  If you have a minute, watch the creator of Scratch explain why teaching kids coding is absolutely a great idea.

How can Hi-Tech Learning help?

Obviously we are passionate about helping kids become creators through computer science. Not only do we strive to connect you with resources like those listed above, we also look forward to seeing your kids face to face in the summer to help them along the way in their coding adventure.

We offer three unique camps that are specifically designed to introduce kids to the power of coding! There are no prerequisites.

Video Game Design

kodu programming wheel

This is one of our original and most consistently requested camps. Students are introduced to the game design process and jump right in to using code for a super-motivating purpose; Creating their own video game! This camp is especially accessible to younger children because the learning curve associated with using the mouse and keyboard is removed. Instead, students use a wired XBox controller with the PC application Kodu Game Lab to create and instantly test their own games.  Designed for ages 7-10 years old.

Mobile Game Design

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Creating a game that can be played on any PC or mobile device is not outside of your 9-13 year old’s reach! In this camp students continue to use block based programming, however the complexity and creative potential is upped a handful of degrees. Using GameSalad, students are able to create an original mobile game from scratch. This camp is the perfect next step for a Video Game Design veteran, but also works smashingly as a jumping in point for our older students.

Modding with Minecraft

javascript

One of the most frequently asked questions from my students is “Can you help me with Mods?”. A “Mod” is a user-modified version of a video game. Game rules, abilities, locations, and more are modified through coding to make the Minecraft experience unique. Usually, students are just wanting to know how to install a mod they heard about on Youtube or from a friend. This can be fun, but goes back to the idea of consumer vs. creator. A much more rewarding endeavor would be for a student to create their own modified version of Minecraft for their friends to demand to try. In our camp, your child will be introduced to the secret sauce of the Internet, JavaScript coding. At first, students will use block based code to modify the JavaScript. As the camp proceeds students will be able to use authentic text based JavaScript code to really get control of their own modified version of Minecraft.

We would love to hear your feedback about the topics discussed above. Do you think learning to code is an important part of digital literacy? Please comment with your thoughts or any questions!

 

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