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Learning to Code Freebies

This is a strange time in your kids' lives. Their schools closed months ago, their summer plans have been drastically changed, and they can't even visit their friends in person. But they are not alone in this experience. In 1665, Sir Isaac Newton was sent home from Cambridge due to the bubonic plague. While in quarantine, Newton made a number of important discoveries that shaped his life and career.

To help inspire your kids at home, Vernier Software & Technology, an educational company best known for their science software and hardware products that allow students to collect and analyze data in the classroom, has put together an activity that encourages kids to tell the story of Newton’s “year of wonders” through code. Kids can use the Scratch coding app to bring Newton’s story alive. Once they’ve finished telling Newton’s story, they can also use Scratch to code their own story. Storytelling empowers us; challenge kids to use code to share their stories and try out the other activities available for free on the site, including a reading about Newton’s cure for the plague that involves “toad vomit.”

Girl Scout to Offer STEM Badge in Conjunction with Microsoft

Microsoft is welcoming Girl Scouts to its stores for the opportunity to earn badges in STEM subjects such as robotics, digital photography and movie making and coding. The program is intended to encourage more girls to consider careers in STEM fields.

Math Anxiety: Now There is an App for That

Cambridge University in the UK has done a study that shows that more than three-quarters (77%) of children with reported high math anxiety are between normal to high achievers on curriculum math tests. Math anxiety, which typically appears after the age of 6, is a factor in these students having little interest in careers in STEM fields, when in fact they would be perfectly able to perform well in STEM jobs. Two British moms have founded a start up called Funexpected to tackle this world-wide phenomenon. The app itself is a collection of 11 games located across the landscapes of Japan, Egypt and Greenland. Children tap, cut, slide, grab and move animated on-screen objects to propel the story forward, such as by feeding a monkey with the correct amount of juicy berries gathered from various branches or learning logic by catching the right type of fish with a net and filling a fish pond. Parents can use it with their kids as well. The app runs a subscription-based model of $5.25 a month or $42.00 a year. 

Toy Cars, Girls and STEM

Can a toy car teach girls about STEM? Maybe, and that’s the idea behind the “No Limits” program created by Mercedes-Benz, in partnership with Mattel and the National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP). The program’s goal is to teach girls that they can do anything and be anything, especially in fields that are predominately male-dominated. In a press release, the companies state “Through February 2020, girls across the U.S., through more than 100 organizations, will engineer toy racetracks, design cars, engage with female role models and attend STEM workshops through programs designed to expand how they see their future.” As a takeaway gift, 50,000 girls will receive a toy replica of the Mercedes-Benz 220SE that Ewy Rosqvist, a famous Swedish race car driver, used to win the Grand Prix. The toy itself was designed to remind girls of Rosqvist’s feat, and to encourage the girls that they can also forge new paths for women.

Kids Take the Lead in Designing Educational Technology

Most of the classroom technology designed for kids is created by adults who think they know what kids want, but kids across the country involved in the Conrad Challenge (a global STEM and entrepreneurship contest for students in middle and high school) argue they know more about what they need in the classroom. These student education-technology entrepreneurs are using their own experiences to design classroom tech that can help support learning. One group of high schoolers in Texas is designing a mobile app that will provide students with real-time feedback to help them prepare for class presentations. Others are designing platforms to increase student engagement by emphasizing the “how” and “why” of what they learn, help girls master programming, create virtual reality learning opportunities, and embed SmartBoard technology in students’ desks.

Survey Looks at Gen Z Views on Tech Careers

A survey by Dell computers of Generation Z high-school and college students in 17 countries shows 80% want to work with cutting-edge technology as part of their careers, and 57% say their education has prepared them for a job. The data also show 98% have used technology during their education and 52% are confident in their tech skills.

Amazon Expands Future Engineer Program to Younger Grades

Amazon has expanded its "Future Engineer" initiative from high school into K-8. The program has begun offering free online lessons and funding summer camps to help elementary students discover the fun of computer science. Earlier this year, the company revealed the "Amazon Future Engineer Pathway" program that supported 100,000 high school students in taking  Advanced Placement courses in computer science and awarded four-year scholarships and internships to a sizable group of students from under-served populations.

Amazon’s newly announced program serving younger students will fund Computer Science camp scholarships through partnerships with Code.org and Coding with Kids. The mission is to provide underprivileged students with the means to learn coding in an interactive, hands-on way. Currently, the company is accepting scholarship applications for 2019 classes. Schools and districts may also apply on behalf of families.

The Gender Gap in Cybersecurity Needs to Close

According to Cybersecurity Ventures, there will be up to 3.5 million job openings in cybersecurity by 2021, but experts say there is a serious shortage of those trained to fill those spots. Furthermore, only 20% of cybersecurity workers currently are women, which can limit perspective when it comes to solving cyberthreats. "The wider variety of people and experience we have defending our networks, the better our chances of success," says Priscilla Moriuchi, director of strategic threat development at Recorded Future according to Forbes. Got a daughter interested in this field? Take a look at the tips for women entering cybersecurity in the article.

Black Girls Code and Mattel’s Barbie Team Up

According to KPIX-TV (San Francisco), Mattel has teamed with Oakland, Calif., nonprofit Black Girls Code to develop a new black Barbie that builds robots and may inspire girls and minorities to pursue careers in science. "Black Girls Code is breaking barriers, pushing down walls and really empowering our girls to let them know they can be here," says the nonprofit's Amber Morse.

The Connection Between Coding and Reading

Kids who are reluctant readers or who have special needs could be more engaged by learning to code first, asserts Kristen Brooks, a K-5 iPad lab teacher in Georgia. In an interesting blog post for parents and teachers, she suggests that coding can help students develop the skills needed to learn how to read, and shares several suggestions to help integrate coding in the classroom that also can be used by parents at home. An article on the National Public Radio site on coding for kindergarteners is also a useful read on this subject.

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