It’s becoming clearer and clearer: we need to be teaching code to kids from a young age. Computers and technology are woven into our lives, and children attending elementary schools have grown up in a world of touchscreens, voice commands, and AI. Though not every child will become a master programmer or use the skill in their career, they can build skills by learning code that will serve them well in whatever they choose to do in the future.
Even though knowing at least the basics of coding is becoming a crucial skill in our digital world, computer science still hasn’t made its way into most mainstream curriculums. President Barack Obama’s initiative to offer all students computer science never got off the ground due to funding issues and lack of support, and we’re not much closer to that goal a few years later. So what can you do as an educator or parent to add a side of computer science to the curriculum? Make it playful. Here are 4 reasons games are the best tools for teaching code, both inside and outside the classroom.
- They Engage Kids…and Adults
Let’s face it, sometimes it’s hard to get kids to focus. From kindergartners with short attention spans to high schoolers who’d rather be spending time with their friends, teachers and parents often have trouble engaging kids in educational activities. Gamification is a great way to make engagement simple, since almost all kids love video games. In fact, 97% of kids 12-18 play digital games of some kind, and younger children enjoy them as well. Let’s not fool ourselves, even adults learn best when the process is fun. Using games to make coding fun often motivates kids and adults alike to take their programming knowledge to the next level.
- They Break Down the Intimidation Factor
It’s not usually intentional, but many adults make coding out to be this intimidating activity that only people who love math will enjoy and excel at. Not only does this make some kids hesitant to try coding, it makes fewer adults confident to teach and support the subject of computer science. Games can break down the intimidation factor for students and educators alike, and make it easy to teach the basics of coding. These games allow students to learn at their own pace, which takes a lot of the pressure off of learning a new skill that can be challenging.
- They Address the Biggest Obstacles
One of the biggest obstacles to universal computer science education is that there is a lack of teachers who are confident in teaching programming. The good news is that teachers don’t need to have in-depth knowledge about programming to teach the basics; coding games take care of that need. Resources like Hour of Code empower educators and students to take programming education into their own hands with detailed tutorials and games that are self-paced and require no prior knowledge.
- They’re Readily Available
Of course, not every family or school district has the resources to pay for coding tutorials. In 2014, 21.1% of Americans were living in poverty, and school districts in impoverished areas are often strapped for resources. The good news is that most games that teach programming skills are available for free online. Even taking impoverished areas into account, most students now have access to computers that can run most online programming games, whether those computers are in the home, at school, or at the library. With an Internet connection and a compatible device, anyone can learn the concepts and skills of programming without spending a fortune.
A Great Starting Point
Even though games that teach programming skills are a good start, it’s important to remember that they’re only a starting point. In order to become more advanced and actually put their skills to use, other classes or online courses will be needed to learn specific languages and real-life applications. Still, when it comes to laying the groundwork and getting students excited about learning this in-demand skill, games are the best tools available for teaching code.