A common fear for a parent and educator is technology addictiveness or the lack of direction for children using technology. I’ve been asked by many parents what their seven-year-old, or even as young as four years old, can do to learn coding or digital skills.
I vividly recall getting off the bus and asking my Mom to rush home. So today, after weeks of watching my brother play computer games, I decided to start my own. I had memorized the steps from hitting the power button to putting in the correct floppy disk [yes, they still existed!]. A few minutes after sitting in front of the computer, I hit the enter button, and there it was. My game had loaded, and I transitioned into this imaginary world where I was a hero in my own story.
That started an almost 15-year tech career and a never-ending desire to learn and progress. Here are four different reasons I feel my experience has been more productive through early exposure to technology.
1: Micro goals
From my very first experience, I was providing small achievable goals. Want to play a game? Figure out how to turn on the computer yourself by observation first. Want to learn how to make a website? Start by observing websites and understanding what content goes on the website first.
This method of easy-to-achieve micro-goals allowed me to feel accomplished and focused along the way to a bigger goal.
Outside of goal setting, this also gave me an important lesson to split technology projects into small parts to avoid being overwhelmed.
2: The end product
The end outcome for any work I do with technology has always been a critical factor. I recall learning how to code in school for the first time. While the experience was always thrilling and exciting, I was left a bit demotivated when the end product wasn’t something that I could ever really show or use.
To drive my intrinsic motivation, I always worked on technology projects with a real-world application. This way, I always had an end product I’d be proud of.
This real-world application and the focus on the end product allowed me to consistently deliver high-quality results for my clients and customers.
When I started BSD Education, I made sure to keep the real-world aspect as a founding principle on our curriculum and platform.
3: Normalizing fails
Technology can be unforgiving; we have all experienced it fail one time or another. I can no longer count the number of times I’d be left puzzled or frustrated by my code not working. I was fortunate to experience this so many times early into my technology experience that it felt like a normal part of learning.
That resilience benefited me in other aspects of my life, from tests and exams to sports. Later in my career, I discovered how important it was for business leadership when It helped propel me into management.
Today, I always encourage parents and educators to allow failure to be part of the experience. We cannot change the world for the better if we cannot fail.
4: Don’t start with a blank canvas
I recall learning a new programming language, so I did what most aspiring developers did in their teens and picked up a book. The only problem was that almost every book I would read forced you to open a blank file and start typing or ‘copying’ more accurately. By the time I’d get anywhere to have a finished project, I’d be distracted and bored.
One of the benefits of technology is that you rarely have to start with an empty canvas. In school, I always found myself downloading a template or using a pre-existing project as a starting point to launch into my creations.
The key to doing this was to keep looking for starting points that suit your style, even if it meant going through a dozen pre-made projects and templates. What was surprising was how much I could learn from pre-built templates or open-source code.
This habit made me very resourceful when working on complex projects. One of the requirements to becoming a great CTO is understanding how to use existing resources to their potential. Although, as the saying goes, “Do not reinvent the wheel,” this helped me stand out in a pretty competitive environment early on as I was able to offer solutions quicker and more cost-effectively.
I love seeing how teachers are now experiencing the benefits of our scaffolded projects on BSD Education. Nothing is more exciting than a student showing off a project that they built in a week, which would take months and cost thousands in the market to produce today.
Hopefully, these tips help you or people you are helping learn technology more enjoyably. I look forward to seeing how you Build Something Different.