Thank you to Capital One for sponsoring this post
As a former classroom teacher, I can distinguish between social chatter and productive chatter. Social chatter was typical in my first-grade classroom as kids were transitioning between parts of the day or weren’t engaged in classroom tasks and had the power to create a ripple effect of off-task behavior. As the glass doors slid open to the Capital One Headquarters in McLean, Virginia last week, the sounds of productive chatter grew louder with each step towards where Capital One students would showcase their apps and later and celebrate the conclusion of the program.
Productive chatter is immediately recognizable because of the certain energy it contains as kids collaborate, connect, and work towards a common goal. For the past 10 weeks, 85 students from four Northern Virginia middle schools participating in Capital One Coders worked in teams to create apps with the help of MIT University’s App Inventor 2. On this particular evening, students congregated in glassed-in conference rooms. Productive chatter from those huddled around laptops spilled out into the hallway and space beyond as they made final adjustments to their apps.
Part of Capital One’s Future Edge initiative, Coders partners with schools and community leaders to foster a focus in software engineering in middle school-aged students. This initiative focuses on developing an interest in STEM subjects and helping today’s youth get the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century.
“I’d never coded before,” one girl told me after describing her team’s app and handing over a tablet for me to play. Another told me that the hardest part about what her group did was creating the code to make their vision a reality on the tablet before me. One boy proudly turned around his team’s laptop to display the lines of code he and his teammates wrote saying, “If we had more time, we could have made our app even better!”
It was an inspiring night where enthusiasm ran high among eager middle schoolers and left me wishing that our local middle school offered a similar course. It also got me thinking about middle schoolers and the best ways to teach our kids the skills they need to prepare them for a job market where many jobs of the future might not even exist yet.
As this group of students prepared to graduate from Coders like the thousands before them, they were asked to write a note with advice to future program participants as they get started. With colorful square cards before them and pens in hand, I watched as they shared words of wisdom to those who will follow in their footsteps, thinking about what I might say to a future coder.
Even though I’m a mom of a STEM loving daughter and have plenty of advice for parents, my advice for middle schoolers is different. Building apps and coding is fun but it can be challenging. Here’s my advice to future tween and teen technologists who participate in Coders:
Dear Future Technologist,
You’re about to go on an amazing journey. The path you take isn’t clearly defined and there are many roads that can lead you to your final destination. Some might put you on a different path towards discovering the unknown while others might take your learning in a direction you hadn’t anticipated. None of the routes are wrong especially when you remember these four things about your journey and are willing to work with those you meet along the way.
Be Open Minded
You may be entering this program with preconceived notions about software engineering or who software engineers are. You might not see yourself as one right now but be open-minded to the possibilities that exist because you never know until you give something new a try!
Be Collaborative and Flexible
Working in groups has benefits and drawbacks but remember the previous suggestion about being open-minded. The person in the group who annoys you the most might have a moment of brilliance to help you solve a problem you’re stuck on. The same is true of the quietest member! Try to remember the importance of each individual and value their contributions to the collaborative process even though there will be times your patience will be tested.
Building apps and coding is fun but it can be challenging. There will always be obstacles, stumbling blocks, and hurdles but what you learn as you work to overcome them is just as valuable as reaching your end goal. Persistence pays off! The learning you’re doing while problem-solving is invaluable even in moments of frustration.
Challenges have the power to erode your self-confidence as you doubt your ability but just remember, you can do it! Keep working through challenges with your teammates, seek support from your mentors, and remember there’s a whole network who wants you to succeed.
About Capital One Coders
Capital One Coders is part of the company’s Future Edge initiative that focuses on helping more Americans get the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century. Since the program’s creation in 2014, Capital One Coders has partnered with over 75 schools and nonprofits, teaching 9,000 students to code and develop skills for the 21st century. Capital One collaborates with schools and community organizations across the country in order to help today’s youth foster the necessary skills to tackle the challenges of tomorrow through newly developed STEM skills.
For more information about how Capital One’s Future Edge initiative provides community grants to help today’s students get the skills they need for the jobs of today and tomorrow:
- Visit the Capital One Coders homepage
- Follow Capital One on Facebook, Instagram, and on Twitter (@CapitalOneTech)
- Learn more through these articles: Capital One Coders Helps Students Shape Their Future and Capital One Coders Makes STEM Learning Fun
Huge thanks to Capital One for sponsoring my attendance at C1 Coders graduation. I was compensated to attend, provide live coverage, and share my experience through this post. All opinions are my own and based on personal experience.