Something important was MISSING at Parent-Teacher Conferences

Something important was MISSING at Parent-Teacher Conferences

Categorized under: computer science education for kids

This week, we had parent-teacher conferences at my children’s school. During parent-teacher conferences, we go through what is going well and what could be improved with my kid’s educational journey. Typically, at my kid’s school, there is a conference during the fall and spring. It’s always good to have 30-60 minutes to spend with my kid’s teachers.  Thankfully, both of my kids are doing well with the topics of study along with their social/emotional development. However, during this most recent conference, I realized that something very important was missing.

Where’s the Tech Education?

As I was talking with my kid’s teachers, we went through their performance in the traditional subjects of: math, reading, science, foreign language and art. We discussed their assessment standards and how they have changed year over year. We also reviewed their recent scores on standardized tests. However, it became obvious that there is still a giant hole in the curriculum: technology education.  Even though both of my school-aged children have iPad’s that they bring home every evening, the only time they really are learning about the wonderful world of technology is during a class or camp at Digital Adventures and at home. And, while I’m grateful that we are building the sandbox for kids to learn about hardware and software platforms and that my kids have a dad that studied and worked professionally as an engineer can gain that learning, there is a much greater opportunity to better incorporate this into the school system so that all kids can develop their creative problem solving muscle.

Why incorporate Tech Education into Schools?

Digital Adventures is primarily an extracurricular after-school and weekend program designed to develop technology acumen. We are in 2 locations (Wilmette and Lincoln Park) in the Chicago area and expanding to a 3rd location before the end of the year. At each of our learning studios, we are only tapping into a small percentage of the local student market.  In addition, we run before/after school programs at schools that are in close proximity to our learning studios.  Frankly, this means that despite our best efforts, we are not fully exposing every kid to the knowledge of how computer programming and engineering design works.  Given our view that this is essential learning for the future success of our kids, we need to have technology education in many more places sooner rather than later. This is not to suggest that this is short putt and that we can just imagine it and it will happen. Instead, we need a collective effort of parents to reach out and influence national, state and local leadership to develop a plan for rapidly expanding these programs into the school system. This increases the hit rate and provides kids with the exposure they need even if they don’t become the full-stack developers of tomorrow.

While there are some forward thinking and well-resourced districts that are putting investments towards developing curriculum and instruction around tech education, there are still way too many kids that are underexposed to this important topic.

Don’t forget about bringing tech education into the home

One of the major challenges with tech education is that unlike traditional subjects, most parents weren’t exposed to this learning during their formal years. With math, even if one didn’t become a mathematician, he/she still knows what fractions and multiplication are. However, if you haven’t been exposed to a conditional statement or how to troubleshoot a line of code, it can seem very intimidating. Fortunately, there are some great resources (Codecademy, Khan Academy, Scratch) out there that can help parents gain a high level understanding of how computer programming is used to build projects and ultimately solve problems. Equipped with this knowledge, parents are better able to guide their kids along a path of development with their technical education.  

At Digital Adventures, we are also in the process of developing a solution for kids in areas that aren’t yet served by one of our learning studios. Stay tuned….

In the book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talks about Bill Gates exposure to computer terminals at an early age. He goes on to create the connection between this learning opportunity and his ultimate success at Microsoft. Years later, Gladwell clarified that his point wasn’t simply about the amazing accomplishments that Gates had at Microsoft. Instead, Gladwell remarked, 

"We look at the young Bill Gates and marvel that our world allowed that thirteen-year-old to become a fabulously successful entrepreneur. But that's the wrong lesson. Our world only allowed one thirteen-year-old unlimited access to a time sharing terminal in 1968. If a million teenagers had been given the same opportunity, how many more Microsofts would we have today?"

About the Author: Omowale Casselle is the Co-Founder & CEO of Digital Adventures.