10 Steps to Help Kids Jumpstart a Tech Career This Summer

Richard Wang
by Richard Wang 28 May, 2016

:: By Richard Wang, Coding Dojo ::



School is (or almost is) out for summer! And while most kids are gearing up for a season full of camps, sports and playing video games, they may be missing out on a huge opportunity.


That's because according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics there will be almost half of a million new computer technology jobs created within the next decade sparked by cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT) and mobile computing. This means big job opportunities in technology for people with the right skillset. Unfortunately for kids, learning those skills is often more difficult than you'd expect.


Are Public Schools Teaching Students How to Code?

The short answer is "no." Parents might expect their children to learn the basics that they need in public school, but judging by the results of a 2014 Gallup report, that expectation isn't being met. Only one out of four U.S. high schools offer computer science (CS) classes that teach programming (many of them teach theoretical CS concepts or how to use computers, but not hands-on coding skills), even though a majority of educators want children believe an intro CS class should be required for graduation.


In short, most public schools don't offer their students the chance to actually learn how to build applications, even though the demand for these skills in the job market continues to grow. Learning to code also teaches logical thinking, problem solving and creativity and these skills will benefit children both in school and in life from a young age even if they don't end up working in technology. So how can kids start learning the coding skills they'll need for a career in technology this summer?


10 Ways to Learn How to Code

Thankfully for the aspiring software developer students out there, there are other options besides what is offered in traditional schools. Online resources and coding training classes organized by other groups have exploded in popularity in the last several years. These range from fully structured classes to online self-study. Most of them are flexible enough to fit into your summer vacation and there are opportunities for every age group. Here are 10 plus ways for kids (and adults too!) to learn how to code, organized by learning level.


Elementary School

- Scratch is a programming language wrapped up in a game with an online community for kids to share their animation creations. It's aimed at ages 8 and up.


- Lightbot is available online and for iPad, iPhone and Android and meant for ages 5-9. It teaches basic programming concepts by having players solve puzzles by giving commands to a robot.



Middle School

- Hopscotch is an iPad game for middle school-aged kids that teaches kids coding logic and fundamentals like variables, loops and conditionals. There's no typing or actual syntax involved, kids just drag and drop blocks into order to make drawings, art and games.


- Code.org's Hour of Code has dozens of partner games and resources to teach coding with fun media tie-ins, like learning to code with Star Wars or Frozen characters or Minecraft games (shown below). Most of them are intended for middle school and older, although some are appropriate for younger kids. They also have several resources specifically designed for girls.



- Khan Academy offers excellent video tutorials and lessons for just about anything, coding included. They cover the basics of JavaScript, HTML and CSS and are great for people that like structured lessons instead of figuring everything out on their own.


- First Robotics is a robotics league for teenagers that teaches students coding and engineering. Participants build robots that must complete a variety of tasks in competitions against other schools - sometimes it involves robot fights.


High School and 2016 Grads

- Online Classes: EdX offers free computer science courses online and many of them are from U.S. colleges and universities, such as an intro to CS class from Harvard. Udemy offers similar online coding classes with more variety. Their courses cost money, but are reasonably priced ($20-$40 per course).


- Thimble by Mozilla is an online code editor that's geared towards beginners learning JavaScript and HTML/CSS.



- Self-Study: W3Schools has tutorials on JavaScript, HTML & CSS, XML, Server Side and miscellaneous Web building. These are free, but have less structure than classes from EdX or Udemy so you'll need to be a bit more self-motivated if you use these.


- Coding Bootcamps: These programs offer an intensive, highly structured, way to learn programming languages in a relatively short amount of time. Most programs are full-time, but could be fit into a summer vacation for high school students or taken between high school and college. Most bootcamps offer on-site classes that run for several weeks to a few months and some offer online or shorter options.


Go Code!

You can also find coding classes for a variety of ages in your area using Code.org's search engine. Even without a strong computer science program in public schools, there are still plenty of options for young people to learn the skills they'll need for a career in technology. Have fun and keep learning this summer.


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About the Author:

Richard Wang is an entrepreneur and CEO of Coding Dojo, a 14-week coding bootcamp with campuses in Seattle, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, Dallas, Washington DC (June 2016) and Chicago (Sept. 2016). Since 2012, Coding Dojo has helped individuals from a variety of backgrounds and skill levels transform into professional developers who go on to be hired by start-ups and world-class companies like Expedia, Microsoft, JPMorgan Chase, Docusign and Skytap.