In this day and age it isn't always enough for a student to be able to use a computer for game play, web browsing and word processing. The future needs them to be able to use computers in more advanced ways.
Luckily, it's becoming easier and easier for kids to learn to program and design technology. For example, there is Scratch, a tile-based visual programming language designed by MIT. Kids can use it to create stories, games, and animations then share them online as part of a community of other programmers. It's the perfect first language for kids to develop the thought processes needed for higher-level coding. Kaleidoscope offers classes in Scratch, for exactly that reason.
The importance of coding is getting more and more recognition. In fact, a group technology superstars -- Microsoft's Bill Gates, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Susan Wojcicki of Google, to name a few -- have teamed up to create a nonprofit called Code.org. As a kick-start, they've issued a challenge for every school child to spend an hour programming in December. Is your school up to the challenge? (If your school needs help, Kaleidoscope can provide educational programs for students and training for teachers.)
But what if you child wants their efforts to be more real world than virtual? Welcome to the world of robotics! These days it's easier than ever to get started with building and programming your own machines. (For example, you could take Kaleidscope's Robotics One Day Intensive on November 9!)
Many makers love to use Arduino, an open-source electronics platform. It was designed for artists, designers, and hobbyists that want to create interactive objects, like robots! Arduino has a wide variety of hardware available -- for everything from robotic limbs to wearable electronics -- and it uses a programming language and software that is easy to learn, based on the popular C/C++. With components that are relatively inexpensive and a huge community of enthusiasts to draw from, it's no wonder that Arduino is fast becoming the standard.
Before you think this is all too complicated for kids, stop. There are young folks making amazing things these days. From Super Awesome Sylvia to RoboGrrl, kids are using their creativity to make some of the most amazing projects!
So this Winter, take some time to cozy up with your computer and really get to know it. Encourage your kids to code and create. Those skills will not only lead them to a life-time of exciting, fun projects, it will help them shape the future of technology.