My children love to play chess. It was a game that I introduced them to at an early age because I reasoned it was a great way to get them to think about strategy and competition. In order to get them started with chess, I had to have a baseline understanding of the game to teach them how to move the pieces and how to focus on the ultimate outcome of capturing the king. I’m not a chess grandmaster, but I made sure I understood the game well enough to get them going. Since that time, they have joined the chess club at school and are working to diligently improve their skills. In the early going, I would always win. However, it is getting more and more difficult. More recently, they were asked to participate in a chess competition with kids from around the school district which required having a certain level of capability to receive an invitation. This is a great step in the right direction. And, I’m looking forward to the day where they are consistently winning in the games they play against me which we enjoy regardless of the outcome.
Lead by example
Kids are great at calling out their parents when our actions are inconsistent with our words. We tell our kids that they can do anything they set their minds to. But, when it comes to technology, we will say things like, “I’m too old”. Or, “that’s not really for me”.
Instead, it is much better to say, “I don’t really understand technology, but I’m willing to learn”. With this approach, kids can really see that learning to code involves having a growth vs. fixed mindset. This sets them up much better for success over the long term because they see that even though their parents were a bit reluctant that they were still willing to step up and give it a shot.
Speak their language
Kids have grown up in and around technology. They consider utilizing technology to solve problems almost second nature. Unfortunately, this can put parents in the position of feeling like we are on the outside looking in. The amazement, wonder and pride that results from them building projects using technology is unbelievable. So, we want to encourage them even if we feel like we are not fully up to speed on exactly how the Blockchain technology works.
The nature of technology development means that as soon as we master one thing, something completely new is introduced. However, if you believe in continuous learning, you will realize that getting your kids to understand that they have to learn and re-learn in order to stay fluent in their new language is essential.
By immersing yourself at an introductory level with technology by building a Scratch or Lego robotics projects, your kid will understand that technology should not be feared. Instead it’s something that can and should be embraced.
One of the biggest benefits that I’ve found when you dive into the world of technology is that your kids feel like that you are speaking their language. As a parent, there is nothing better than connecting with your kid on their terms because they are willing to be your guide on the journey.
Know their best efforts
By understanding the basics of coding through building, you start to understand just what goes into a project. Things that you think are simple on the surface like a spaceship game actually have quite a bit of complexity with making sure the conditional statements and variables are set correctly to achieve the desired outcome. You also understand that there is a fair bit of troubleshooting that goes into getting code to work correctly.
Most parents are very impressed when they see what their kid has built during an hour of instruction at Digital Adventures. However, it is very hard to understand their relative performance. For example, I was never very good at coloring within the lines. My youngest son at just 4 years old is quite talented at coloring. But, without the direct experience of coloring earned through many years of very bad pictures could I truly understand how great my kid is at coloring.
Similarly, in order to really push your kid to maximize their individual potential, once you reach a beginner’s level of knowledge and understanding then you can start to ask the right questions around the challenging aspects of the project, how they worked through the challenges, and what steps do they plan to take to further improve their projects going forward.
Improve your problem solving skills
The fundamental challenge of computer programming is figuring out the best way to write a set of instructions that machine will execute as you intended. On the path to figure out how to do this over and over again for several different solutions, programmers become skilled at deconstructing problems down into key elements and then re-constructing a solution based on that understanding.
Even for the simplest of projects, one has to decide exactly how they will implement a given solution. And even when you think everything has been laid out perfectly, the computer will do exactly what you have told it to do even if doesn’t solve the problem how you intended. At this point is when you go back and figure out where there is a disconnect between the proposed solution and actual outcome. This logical progression between deconstructing, solution development, reconstruction and debugging can help in how you think about solutions in everyday life. And who doesn’t want to become a better problem solver?
While it may be intimidating to think about learning a skill, one of the best ways to support your kids on their journey is to also understand the wonderful world of technology as a parent.