As COVID-19 has led schools across the country to transition to at-home learning, educators, parents, and caregivers are on the lookout for accessible activities to keep kids’ minds active and engaged. Luckily, there are many ways to translate computing education from the classroom to the home setting. Below is a sampling of ways that adults — regardless of skill level — can help K-12 students continue to explore pathways to tech careers and grow computational skills. These ideas aren’t just for kids, though. Parents and educators who want to learn something new can also get in on the action!
Just because you’re staying home, doesn’t mean your outfits need to be boring. Why not experiment with adding some flashing lights and music to your look? The E-Textiles-in-a-Box resource includes detailed instructions for four lessons that are designed to introduce the basics of programmable fabric crafts. Once you’ve mastered them, then you can let your imagination run wild.
This interactive video leads the viewer through a series of psychological experiments in order to illustrate what unconscious bias is and why it matters for women in technology. Get your household together to watch the video, and talk about your responses to each experiment as you go along.
Computational thinking, or understanding the ways that computers “think” and solve problems, is a vital part of any computing curriculum — and it’s something students can learn without even turning on the computer. The resource Computer Science-in-a-Box: Unplug Your Curriculum contains multiple activities that teach concepts like binary counting, logic, and algorithms.
NCWIT K-12 Alliance Member CSForALL has compiled some practical resources for families and educators, including a clickable list of coding-related activities and an assortment of ways to ensure that computing education remains accessible for students with disabilities while they’re studying at home. Through strategies like reading instructions aloud and talking through problems together, parents can become active partners in their children’s learning process.
If you’re looking for a deep dive into computing topics or you’d like to develop skills you can use in your career, check out NCWIT K-12 Alliance Member Khan Academy. On this site, you’ll find free courses for beginning and advanced learners on topics like web design, animation, data analysis, and much more. Students can even use this site to get a jump on AP classes or prep for the exam!
Had enough screen time for one day? Take a book break. Picture books celebrating girls and women in computing can spark conversations about careers in technology and show kids of all genders that women can be computer scientists and engineers, too. Try this picture book adaptation of Hidden Figures or the Hello, Ruby series, or browse your library’s website for titles you can download for free.
For those who like to put things together (and take things apart), Maker Shed offers kits containing everything you need to complete a variety of hands-on projects. You can build an adorable robot out of a toothbrush, launch a rocket using compressed air, and much more.
Looking for some inspirational and uplifting content that you can watch as a family? Browse the TECHNOLOchicas.org website for on-demand videos. You can learn about a wide range of computing career opportunities while getting to know real-life Latinas in tech with diverse backgrounds, each of whom is pursuing her dreams in her own unique way.
Kodable is an online educational tool designed especially for younger learners. With curricula for ages four to seven and eight to ten, kids can explore coding basics and critical thinking skills even before they can read. Kodable is also putting together a new library of video tutorials, guides, and lesson plans to support parents and educators who are currently creating content for home learning due to school closures.
Scratch is a free online platform that uses block coding to teach kids, teens, and adults how to create computer animation. Developed by NCWIT Academic Alliance Member MIT’s Media Lab, Scratch lets users design and share their own interactive stories and games. Try collaborating on an animated video with your family, or hold a mini film festival and cheer for each other’s productions.
Even when kids are stuck at home, they can still make new friends and even find a role model through platforms like FabFems, which connects middle school, high school, and college women with women in STEM careers. This is the perfect time to have students strike up a correspondence and ask their burning questions about what their dream job is like in real life. Adults can also sign up to be role models and share their knowledge and experience with girls who are interested in STEM.
Having the whole family at home together can provide an opportunity for important conversations about your kids’ educational goals and dream careers. If they’re interested in tech, but aren’t sure what they want to focus on, you can use this NCWIT resource to explore how different passions line up with different areas of study within the computing field.
Research shows that explicit encouragement from parents or teachers is a major factor in many girls’ decisions about whether to pursue computing classes or not. You can make a difference by giving kids encouraging feedback while they’re learning at home. Reinforce the message that coding gets easier with practice, and spend some time researching tech careers with your kids or your students so they can better visualize themselves in professional roles. This NCWIT resource has more information about the value of encouragement from adult influencers.