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Branching Out to STEM

Updated: Oct 26, 2020

I recently suggested to Austin Kids DIrectory that they list our business in a category called STEM along with Mad Science. Idea Lab Kids would fit here too. I have also recently introduced Robotics and Graphics, which are broader STEM topics that may or may not involve coding. Why?

I want to appeal to a broader audience, including girls and kids that might not like the stereotype of coders. I hope that by inviting new students to our studio, they may be exposed to coding and change the way they think of coding. I think being a part of a community is important in the way that young people view themselves and in instilling excitement about what they want to do in the future. However, at the same time, while we do include math in our coding projects, we do not plan to conduct science or cooking experiments. Our end goal is to develop coders, not to just pass time coding. Coding is a skill that will enrich kids' lives regardless of their future career path.

Many programs in Austin are designed to engage kids under the age of 10 with cool activities like making flashlights or backpacks or dessert. Engagement is wonderful and necessary, but at My Coding Place, we want to train brains to think logically and to create a community of innovators. This is not limited to teaching coding. Solving problems with digital solutions is our mission, and to get there, I think we need to foster the following:

  • Mindfulness - students should think about coding outside of their time at the studio

  • Creativity - students should seek different ways to apply their skills

  • Passion - students should be engaged and seek to learn more

We are working on developing mindfulness, creativity, and passion. We have a handful of students that have been with us from the start that clearly demonstrate these attributes, but it is our job to instill these values through our programs. If we hire the right people, that will be a first step, but we must then train them to ask the right questions and continue to evaluate and improve our programs to differentiate from the many options in Austin for kids to learn to code.

Video games and entertainment will always win if kids have free time in front of a computer. Countless businesses are addressing what we can do to utilize that time in a way that benefits children. Platforms like Code Combat disguise coding in video game fashion where characters must write correct code to get to the next level. We use this platform as a motivational tool but realize its limitation for learning as students are often clicking through to complete the level without processing the educational value. I studied educational technology in graduate school because I was intrigued by the potential of technology for education and learning. It is a challenge I continue to think about on a regular basis, how to channel technology to optimize learning. While MCP has branched out to STEM, our focus remains on coding and reaching as many kids as possible with the rewards of coding.


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