Programming Parents: A Primer for Elementary School Parents

There are a few different challenges that we see parents come up against when it comes to technical educational content for early learners. I hope this guide will help parents navigate some of these challenges.

Given their ubiquity, I want to start of by saying that mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets can easily turn into cognitive 'junk food'.

At Impulse Labs we go through dozens of apps every year to find candidates to add to our curriculum and we have only found two apps that meet our criteria - 

In our experience most apps classified as 'educational' offer little or no educational content. Even the two listed above are used sparingly in our classes as we prefer to use more 'hackable' devices to teach with.

Hackable devices offer students more opportunities to experiment. Our device of choice is the Raspberry Pi. It is a $40 computer that runs Linux and even comes with a programmable version of Minecraft.

We will always recommend a Raspberry Pi over a tablet or a smart phone because you can turn your Raspberry Pi into a tablet with a touch screen, a desktop computer, a laptop, a game console and even a mobile phone!

Any computer with a keyboard and a mouse is better than a smartphone or tablet. The operating system does not really matter - Linux, Windows and MacOS are equally suitable for an elementary school student. 

You would also be better off with a ChromeOS device over a tablet or a smart phone, though a Raspberry Pi is preferable to a ChromeOS device. 

We prefer devices with a keyboard and mouse because we have found that we spend an inordinate amount of time teaching students typing and mousing skills, which are an inescapable prerequisite to learning how to program. 

Here are a few web-based apps that we use to teach keyboarding and mousing skills - 

Finally, our pick for kids coding is a big hit with the kids - 

However, none of these resources will prove adequate if you are not there alongside your child, helping them learn, not metaphorically, but physically. Educational outcomes dramatically improve when parents participate in screen-time activities alongside their children and help mediate the content.

To help facilitate this process we welcome parents into our classes so you can overcome the digital divide between you and your child.

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