How To Teach Your Kids To Code When You’re A Technophobe

Introduction to Coding for Children (And Parents)

As a low-tech, Gen-X mother, I often worry my children will be left behind by our rapidly changing world. How can I give my children the same opportunities as younger, high-tech parents? How can I teach my children to code as a technophobe parent?

Will my technological ineptitude hold my children back?

I know public schools are woefully behind in this area. After all, I was an elementary school teacher for 11 years. How can we help our children keep up with the changes if we can’t even keep up ourselves?

Determined to find a way to nudge my children toward new technology, I researched the subject. Here are 3 strategies I’ve found and tried. If you are a technophobe like me, I hope they will help you, too.

Encourage A ‘Have-a-go’ Attitude

One thing I prioritize as a parent is encouraging my children to try new things with no fear of failure. I emphasize that failure shows us what we still need to learn. It is far better to try, fail often and grow, than not to try at all.

I model this attitude for my sons by sharing my own goals even when I don’t achieve them. It is good for them to see that we don’t always meet our goals and we can learn from our efforts nevertheless. My children know I am trying to write a middle-grade novel. I tell them when I meet my writing goals and I also share the times I don’t. Recently, I told them I entered my manuscript in a writing competition. I was hurt that I wasn’t a finalist, but I learned that my manuscript is not yet ready to send off to agents. I have already rewritten 1/3 of my book and this competition helped me to see the areas I still need to improve.

For more on encouraging your children to adopt a ‘just have a go’ attitude, see this article: Just Have A Go: A Motto To Help You And Your Children Cope With Our Changing World

Try A Free Online Coding Course

The second thing a low-tech parent can do is to ask high-tech friends for suggestions. This is how I discovered Khan Academy’s free Intro. to JS (Javascript for those who don’t know these things like me): Drawing & Animation. It’s brilliant and easy to understand, even for technophobe parents like me.

Since starting this program two weeks ago, I have watched my 8-year-old move through the coursework with ease. Yesterday, his task was to use code to add food to an empty plate. Thinking outside the box as only a child can do, he figured out how to go to the avatar page and then copy and paste the codes for the avatars into the food activity. Now his plate is dotted with Leafers, Ticeratops, and Duskpins, little creatures children can choose to be their avatars in the program. My son thinks this is hilarious. Although this shortcut did not meet the objective of the activity, I did praise his creativity.

Today we will try the task again using Javascript to create shapes on the plate.

Try Using A Micro:bit With Your Child

Photo by Becky Grant

A micro:bit is a tiny programmable computer, designed to make learning and teaching easy and fun!

My next attempt to prepare my children for the 21st century happened at the most cutting edge of all places, the local library. Our public library has micro:bit sets available for children to check out. When I saw this, I eagerly grabbed the plastic Chinese takeout container with this exciting new technology inside. Feeling smug, I found some batteries and unpacked the small set in front of my son.

“We did that at school,” he said, entirely unimpressed with my find. He then showed me how to configure the micro:bit on my computer and get the lights to switch on in different patterns. He even taught his 5-year-old brother how to create a sword out of lights. Once again, it was me with the most to learn.

The BBC micro:bit is a handheld, programmable micro-computer that can be used for all sorts of cool creations, from robots to musical instruments – the possibilities are endless.

The link above will take you to a website that offers over 200 different activities and resources to try with a micro:bit. It is used by parents and teachers around the world. We have only done the most basic lesson, but my sons and I will continue to experiment with it this year.

What Next?

Once we finish the Khan Academy introduction and several of the micro:bit activities, I will be trying out some Young Coder projects with my children. Young Coder is an entire publication devoted to coding, science, and tech for young people and beginners.

Oh, and I may be signing myself up for the summer coding camp instead of my sons. Happy learning everyone!

If you have any tech resources to share, please let me know in the comments section. I am always looking for new things to try.

Here is a handy list of micro:bit resources I got from the library:

What is the BBC micro:bit?

micro:bit make code:

Scratch projects:

What will you make?:

Tinkeracademy code: