*This is a guest blog post.
Computational thinking, the foundation of coding, can be developed at a very young age, but there are few resources to help parents or teachers.
Jen Chiou, Founder of CodeSpeak Labs, established computer programming classes for students from PreK-12 in classrooms in NYC and CA. Prior to founding CodeSpeak Labs, Ms. Chiou worked in tech – where she was shocked at how difficult it was to recruit a diverse tech team.
“I’m the mom of two, Maxwell, 3 and Alexander, 1 and a half,” Jen shared. “I’ve found stories to be one of the most powerful ways to engage my kids in big ideas-- from potty training to being kind to others. So I hit upon the idea to experiment with different coding stories with my 3 year old. He’s hooked and loves the stories and the accompanied learning.”
The thrust of CodeSpeak Books is to introduce children - in fun and age-appropriate ways - stories that are geared toward teaching kids ages 2-6 years old the foundations of computer coding and computational thinking without needing a device.
The biggest challenge for parents who don’t know how to code themselves is figuring out how to help their children learn. That’s the beauty of CodeSpeak Books. It also serves as an educational tool for parents, so they can learn together with their toddlers as the stories increase in complexity along the CodeSpeak Books’ Step Into Coding system.
As outlined by CodeSpeak Labs, there are three types of coding stories:
- Build the foundation: Learn the major concepts through stories: Sequences, Logic, and Events.
- Learn functionality: Computational thinking with visual block code. Repeat loops, Conditionals, and Functions.
Like when children first learn the letters of the alphabet, they learn the bigger concepts of code so they get used to how code looks visually. This way, when they are older, they see code as an old friend – and not the intimidating gobbledygook that adults see when looking at code for the first time.
One of the incredible elements of CodeSpeak Stories is the use of actual code used on the leading online coding platforms – making it an easy transition for parents who eventually want to help their students plug the code into a computer. This is one of the reasons why CodeSpeak Labs is creating partnerships with Scratch (MIT), Code.org, and Bitsbox. It’s kind of like continuing education on code, but for elementary and high school students.
How it works
How to Turn Your Grown-Up into a Robot and Other Coding Stories is an old fashioned picture book with a twist. It’s an actual physical book to engage the young reader and encourage them to interact with the book, tapping and choosing from different options, using many of the tactics that make devices so entertaining for adults.
“We’ve been introducing these stories into our classrooms, and the children have loved them and thrived with them,” says Jen Chiou. “Now, we want to make these stories and lessons available to children everywhere with a book series that kids all over the world can use to prepare them for the future.”
The tech sector is one of the fastest-growing fields, and there aren’t nearly enough people with these skills. Jen had worked in education previously, and it been a passion of hers for many years to update our education system. Her goal – and the goal of CodeSpeak Books is for all kids regardless of gender, race, or income level to have the ability to shape the world in which they’re growing up.
As Ms. Chiou so aptly summarized: “The first day we started, I saw magic. It was so obvious how engaged the students were, and I knew immediately we were onto something. Programming sets up kids for top careers, but more importantly, it gives them a magical power, and I decided to start CodeSpeak Labs to bring that magic to as many kids as possible.”
Jen is a Stanford graduate who created CodeSpeak Labs to help make computer science accessible to kids. Previously, she ran a tech startup, was a management consultant, and worked at an international education NGO.