Teaching kids to code can lead to high-paying jobs in the future

Most parents would love for their kids to choose a high-paying career with lots of job opportunities, but what if students aren't exposed to the skills for that career?

Code.org shows there are close to 50,000 open computing jobs in our Local 6 states right now, and that number is only expected to increase.

At Clark Elementary School, science teacher Kym Mizell uses school iPads to move a computer-generated character that she says is creating a path toward a competitive career. She uses free applications like Scratch or Kodable on the  iPads to incorporate coding in her curriculum.

“What you are doing in these coding apps and games is actually allowing kids to get a taste of what it is like to program a device,” Mizell said.

Think of coding as a language that tells computers to do certain actions. Mizell uses a coding app to tell a cartoon to move around in a specific way.

“This is actually a cartoon when they finish, which is another thing that they see all the time that they don't realize is coding,” Mizell said.

Coding creates the building blocks for computer programming: a career code.org estimates will have a million more jobs than computer science by 2020 .

The huge gap is partly due to a majority of schools not offering computer-programming courses.

“Until they test technology and computer and coding, I don't see a big push statewide or nationwide,” Mizell said.

Mizell says apps and sites like Code.org can help fix that.

“There’s a lot to know, so the younger we can introduce kids to it the easier it will be,” Mizell said.

Nationally, there has been a movement to improve students' computer science literacy.  For example, Kentucky legislators have approved computer science as a foreign language credit in high schools.

With the push to immerse more kids in technology, schools are needing to upgrade. Over the summer Massac County School District updated five of their labs from large Windows desktops to compact Chrome devices.

Massac County Schools Technology Director Tom Walker says it's important to stay up to date with technology.

“For us, it was a cost efficient, quick machine that we were able to get into more hands of students,” Walker said.

He says they're in the middle of reworking their Kindergarten through sixth grade computer curriculum to include coding, as well as adding more project-based collaborative learning through Google Docs.

“Kids are sponges, and we really need to make sure these resources are open to them and we at least show them,” Walker said.

If you’d like to learn coding at home with your child, a few recommended apps are Scratch, Tynker, Daisy the Dinosaur, and Cargo-Bot. For a more comprehensive list, click here.  

West Kentucky Community and Technical College is also working on offering a new club that teaches coding in an after school program for rising fifth and sixth grade students in the coming fall.

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