Technology has been the hallmark of the 21st century and will continue to influence our lives into the future. From social media to biotechnology, artificial intelligence to national security, innovations in computing are changing many facets of everyday life.
Computing is becoming increasingly important in our world, so why aren’t more students being exposed to computer science? Today’s youth interact with technology at much higher rates than previous generations. A 2018 Pew Research Center report noted 95 percent of teens (ages 13-17, regardless of race/ethnicity, gender, and socio-economic background ) have access to a smartphone, and are using their phones to frequently interact with a variety of online apps and social media platforms.
Unfortunately, the majority of U.S. schools only require only that students know how to use computers, rather than understanding the science behind them. Seldom do schools actively engage and prepare students to innovate and create the new technologies that drive local and national economies.
The field of computer science, or “CS,” encompassing all the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering, and math, and also design. Computing-related jobs are among the fastest-growing and highest-paying (not to mention fun and creative!) professions. Today, 58 percent of all new jobs in STEM are in computing, and by 2026, there will be an estimated 3.5 million such jobs open in the United States.
The good news is that parents, educators, and other adult influencers can generate a passion for computer science in the next generation. It is possible to get young people to be just as excited about coding or a career in computing as they are about YouTube and Snapchat. How? The answer is easier than you might think.
Adult influencers do not need to be technology experts to be actively engaged in kids’ learning. As cliché as it sounds, even the smallest “you can do it” goes a long way in motivating young people to learn computing, especially girls and kids of color, who are regularly underrepresented in tech.
Encouragement is a relatively simple strategy that most people can readily implement to encourage youth to explore, study, and have a career in computer science. Here are a few ways you can bolster a young person’s participation in CS:
- Talk with your children or children you know about why they should consider computing careers
- Talk with teachers, counselors, and school personnel about the need for computing education, especially early education
- Connect with local, regional, and national programs and organizations (e.g., Girl Scouts, Computer Science for All, Code.org) that offer programs focused on science and technology
The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) was established in 2004 to significantly increase girls’ and women’s meaningful participation in computing.
We offer extended recommendations for encouraging youth’s meaningful participation in CS through research-based resources, including: Guide to Inclusive Computer Science Education, Computer Science is for Everyone toolkit, NCWIT Girls in IT: The Facts report, and Top 10 Ways Families Can Encourage Girls’ Interest in Computing.
JeffriAnne Wilder, Ph.D., National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), [email protected]