Parents and teachers are concerned about young kids getting too much screen time. Should they allow any? Will kids fall behind if they aren’t allowed much screen time? How and when should youngsters learn how to use computers, learn about computer science, and start developing skills that eventually lead to coding? These are all valuable competencies that will serve them well in the high-tech workplace someday. But do kids really need to start getting prepared for the jobs of the future as early as kindergarten? Good news for concerned adults: It is possible to teach computer science concepts to very young kids—without using computers at all!
What is Computational Thinking?
Computational thinking (CT) is “thinking like a computer scientist.” It is the thinking and the skills involved in formulating a problem and expressing its solution(s) in such a way that a computer—human or machine—can carry out. Computational thinking is the foundation of computer science, and includes problem analysis and decomposition, algorithmic thinking and expression, functions and abstraction, and debugging. These may sound like complex concepts, but these are all skills that are well within the grasp of young kids to not only comprehend, but to enjoy.
Computational Thinking ‘Unplugged’
During gym, recess, or play time, adults can make fun challenges for kids that lay the foundation for coding skills. Here are a few examples:
Problem Analysis: Supply your kids with blocks, a piece of wood, balls and colored tape. Challenge them to use the blocks to build a ramp for the ball to roll down that will make the ball reach a line of tape that is placed a short distance away.
Algorithmic Thinking: Help your kids to describe, step by step, a simple task such as eating cereal. Without knowing it, they’ll be exploring important coding concepts like sequencing (put cereal in bowl and then put in milk), loops (chew each bite of cereal 20 times) and conditionals (if the bowl is empty, stop eating).
Patterns and Pattern Recognition: Make a sound pattern with rhythm instruments, or even more simply, with a pot and spoon. Start out by making a pattern that your child can copy back. BANG, BANG, tap, BANG, BANG, tap . . .
You may already be doing some of these with your kids already, without realizing that they are learning computational thinking.
A Solid Foundation Lasts Into Later Life
Why start kids early? Kids who take computer science classes later in school have a tremendous advantage if they’re already comfortable with core programming concepts such as algorithms and debugging. Developing these skills early gives them confidence to tackle harder and harder challenges as their education and life experiences progress.
When you sit down to study, how do you transfer that massive amount of information from the books and notes in front of you to a reliable spot in your mind? You need to develop good study habits. At first, it’ll take a good deal of conscious effort to change your studying ways, but after a while, it’ll become second nature, and studying will be easier to do.
Preparing to Study
Manage your time. Make a weekly schedule and devote a certain amount of time per day to studying. This will also improve your grades. That amount will vary depending on whether you’re in high school or college, and also varies by field of study. Make sure you stick to your schedule as much as possible but don’t be afraid to go off of plan sometimes to study more for the most recent upcoming exam. Make sure this study plan is realistic and not impossible. Don’t forget to schedule in everything, from eating, dressing, and commuting, to labs and scheduled classes.
You need to balance school, work, and extra-curricular activities. If you are really struggling with your classes, you may want to give up the afterschool job or an extra-curricular activity until your grades come up. You need to prioritize your time. Remember: your education is the most important thing.
For college classes, you should base the hours you study per class on how difficult the class is and how many credit hours the class is worth. For example, if you have a 3 hour physics class that is really hard, you want to study 9 hours a week (3 hrs x 3 for hard difficulty). If you have a literature course that is worth 3 hours and is kinda hard, you may want to study 6 hours a week (3 hrs x 2 for medium difficulty).
Pace yourself. Find the best speed for you to study and adjust accordingly. Some concepts or classes will come to you more naturally, so you can study those more quickly. Other things may take you twice as long. Take the time you need and study at the pace you feel comfortable.
If you study more slowly, remember that you will need more time to study.
Get enough sleep. Make enough time in your schedule to get enough sleep. Get a good night’s sleep every night and you’ll be making the best of your study time. This is important as you lead up to the test, and especially important right before you take the test. Studies have shown that sleep positively impacts test taking by improving memory and attentiveness. Staying up all night studying may sound like a good idea, but skip the all-night cram session. If you study throughout the weeks, you won’t need to cram anyway. Getting a good night’s sleep will help you perform better.
If you end up a little sleep deprived despite your best efforts, take a short nap before studying. Limit your nap to 15-30 minutes. After you wake, do some physical activity (like you would do during a break) right before you start.
Clear your mind of anything that doesn’t have to do with the topic you’re studying. If you’ve got a lot on your mind, take a moment to write yourself some notes about what you’re thinking about and how you feel before you start studying. This will help to clear your mind and focus all your thoughts on your work.
Eliminate electronic distractions. One of the worst distractions for studying is electronic devices. They are hooked up to social media, you receive texts through your phone, and your laptop is hooked to the internet. Silence your cell phone or keep it in your bag so it’s not there to distract you if someone calls or texts you. If you can, don’t open your laptop or connect it to the internet.
If you are easily distracted by social networking sites such as YouTube, Facebook, or others, download one of the available applications to instantly block some of the distracting sites on your computer. When you are done with your work, you can unblock access to all the sites as before.