What Are Little Coders Made of?

Computing Education Engineering Geek Culture
Image by: Randy Slavey, used with permission
Image by: Randy Slavey, used with permission

This guest article is from Gregg Pollack, founder and CEO of Code School.

Every parent dreams of their children turning into adults with successful careers they love. But how can you tell if your kid has a bright future in one of the fastest-growing industries in the world? The White House has projected there will be 1.4 million computer science-related jobs available by 2020, and only 400,000 computer science graduates with the skills to apply for those jobs. Are there ways parents can guide their child to being one of those graduates to help boost that number?

My company recently polled 2,200 coders and software developers to uncover the key traits and tendencies that boys and girls exhibit early in life, well before they go into computer science careers. The data provides clues for parents, teachers and other mentors that interact with youth to indicate what indirect tendencies might signal a future interest in computer science.

A key finding in our study is that boys manifest their interest in computers and technology much earlier — at age 15 or younger — whereas most girls don’t display or develop this passion until later in life. In fact, women with a future in computer science tend to favor more artistic childhood hobbies — 63 percent of our female respondents listed music as their top interest during childhood. Conversely, 83 percent of men surveyed said their top childhood hobbies revolved around computers, with sports as the next closest interest at 61 percent. It appears to be a pretty easy thing to spot in boys, while girls may need that extra push. Knowing this, parents can take an active role in fostering and nurturing a computer science passion in their kids.

Okay, so you want your kid to be a coder and you think he or she has a shot at it. What should you do now? An easy way to start is by investing in learn-to-code books, toys and games — I like The Foos, Dash and Dot, Kano, and a book called Hello Ruby. I’ve also had a lot of fun working through learn.code.org to do some basic programming with my kids. I spend a lot of time playing games with my kids, too, and one of my recent favorites is No Stress Chess. It’s one of the best ways to teach kids 6 years and older how to play the game. Chess itself is all about thinking ahead and visualizing all the options in front of you, much like programming. Another great “think-ahead” game I’ve enjoyed playing with my kids is Robot Turtles.

For girls who are naturally drawn to music, encouraging their growth can be beneficial, since we saw that many times this interest leads to careers in computer programming. Additionally, both boys and girls who show a preference for math and science are a natural fit for computer science later on.

Everyone is talking about why it’s important to get kids interested in coding and computer-related fields early on. But parents can take this a step further by learning to recognize in their kids those traits that hint to a future career in computer science and then work to nurture their passions. This is the most effective way to prepare the next generation of coders and developers.

About the Author

Greg PollackGregg Pollack is founder and CEO of Code School, a learning destination for existing and aspiring developers. A serial entrepreneur, Pollack also founded Envy Labs and Starter Studio, among others.

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