September 27, 2022
To interest young children in computer science, make the curriculum fun. Here’s how:
There’s no doubt that computer science education benefits today’s students. As humanity’s use of technology increases, there are more and more jobs being created for the next generation of workers. But, though there’s an increasing need for qualified workers in the fields of coding and computer science, not enough students are majoring in these disciplines, leading to an opportunity gap. Simply put, there are thousands of high-paying jobs being created, with not enough workers to fill them.
To set students up for success, they should be learning to code as early as possible. But, it can be difficult to get young minds passionate about programming and computer science! Many students aren’t interested in this field, especially if they’ve already been discouraged by difficulty (or boredom) in other related subjects like mathematics or science. Additionally, some students may also be discouraged by societal constraints, feeling that, because of their gender, background, or race, there isn’t a space for them in STEM. For both of these far-too-common problems, there’s a solution.
Engaging students in STEM at an early age is imperative. To interest young children in computer science, make the curriculum fun. Here’s how:
Use What they Already Love
Though students are using technology at a rate unparalleled by previous generations, some students have a difficult time making connections between how they use technology for fun and leisure and the practical uses of technology. Instead of seeing tech as a gateway to achieving the career of their dreams and an endless source of knowledge, technology remains a means of entertainment.
It’s imperative that your classroom uses the tools available to bridge the gap between fun and technological productivity. Incorporate the fun they have on iPads, computers, and consoles into their lessons. Place emphasis on how they can apply new lessons and skills to their fun outside of the classroom, too! When students realize that they can use coding, technology, and computer devices to make video games more fun, improve their understanding of social media, and maximize the usefulness of the internet, they’ll be hooked.
Think about what the students in your class are talking about. Do they love a specific video game? Is there a show that they talk about? Is there an app they won’t stop using in class? Use this information to make your lessons more engaging. A class that loves Fortnite, for example, will likely be more interested in learning about the mechanics of that game than they would in learning about Pac-Man or Galaga.
There’s a reason that console games, phone apps, and computer games are so popular: they’re rewarding! Though most games, when boiled down, consist of sets of lists of tasks (a.k.a. quests and missions) the user must complete to move forwards, kids and adults keep coming back for more. A game is likely to successfully capture the attention of users when the following criteria are met:
Understanding and applying these mechanics of game psychology in your curriculum will provide a massive boost to student interest, engagement, and retention. Once your students begin to treat learning as a game, they’ll be encouraged to try and win it!
If you’re interested in learning more about game theory, check out this Introductory Game Psychology article by Troy Dunniway on LinkedIn.
Allow Space for Creativity
Coding requires a lot of mathematics. Any teacher with experience in teaching math can tell you how difficult it can be to keep students engaged when lessons require tough problem-solving activities. In any subject that requires intense focus on difficult problems and troubleshooting, it benefits students to take breaks!
Intersperse difficult lessons with opportunities for students to have a creative outlet. Let students upload different sprites, modify mechanics, and take time to customize their settings and characters! When students are granted the opportunity to customize, they won’t just have a moment to decompress after difficult challenges, they’ll also feel a sense of ownership over their projects!
When in doubt, find a way to make your students laugh. Humor is a powerful educational tool and there are many benefits in bringing it into the classroom. Not only does it increase student interest and attention, it also creates a positive learning environment for students, boosting their overall morale in the classroom!
Additionally, leave space for students to be silly in their code. Even though naming variables with goofy terms may not be the most efficient way to go about coding, kids that are allowed the space to do this will enjoy the course a bit more. They’ll also likely quickly discover the value of naming conventions.
Let Code be a Toy Box
To keep students coming back to coding day after day, and keep them interested in learning more, utilize the power of experimentation! Play is a powerful tool for learning. When students are granted the time and space to mess around with their code, break and modify their projects, and try to go beyond the curriculum, they won’t just learn more, they’ll also enjoy doing it!
The best way to learn a new concept is to experience it and get lots of practice. Theory and lectures, no matter the quality, will only get students so far. To solidify lessons, and to help lead students to understand why things work the way they do, let them try, fail, modify, and find success and improvements on their own. Let them learn from their own mistakes. With just a bit of trial and error, they’ll be on their way to developing a better understanding of coding, computer science, and technology.
Mastery Coding ensures that students aren’t just being taught STEM, they’re also having fun learning it! With our pedagogy, your school’s students will stay engaged and learn more than they would from our competitors. Make learning code fun (and more efficient too!)- bring Mastery Coding programs to your school today!
Olivia is Mastery Coding's Content Marketing Director based in Portland, Oregon.