Understanding the basics

Part of my last job was teaching K-12th grade students Computer Information Technology. While I was teaching my students, I myself was a student at our local community college working on a Web Design Degree.

This combination of circumstances offered me a unique opportunity. The students that were coming out of high school were lacking what I consider to be a vital piece of the technology puzzle; the basics. Problem-solving and critical thinking are the root of the basics.

With the advantage of learning computers from the beginning, I learned CLI and Basic programming before GUI was even a thing (Fascinated with Electronics). And back then, the only place to get information was from the two three-ring binders that came with our PC (The first model released to the public by IBM). We did have a set on encyclopedias up on the shelf but they didn’t offer much information on this new technology that I had at my fingertips.

I know some of you younger readers are going to gasp when I say this, but if you can only imagine, there was no such thing as the internet at that time. I have often thought, being the knowledge junkie that I am, how overloaded my brain would be today if I had access to Google and YouTube when I was a teenager.

With what I did have available at the time, I taught myself DOS and BASIC programming. At the age of 19, I took my first college course – in BASIC programming, of course. I was already married and a new mom at the time, so I took the course through the mail. SNAIL mail (again for you younger readers, this is what we older people call the actual mail you send through the post office.). Email wasn’t really a thing yet either. Oh. And cell phones didn’t exist.

When I completed my final project, my professor had to ask me to explain where I got the information that I used to create a graphic Yahtzee-type game as my final project for his Introduction to BASIC class.

Taking college courses today with the kids coming out of high school, It seems that the large majority know very little about technology. Because the technology has advanced so much with GUI (graphical user interface), we are losing the knowledge of what is underneath the hood, so to speak.

There seem to be fewer and fewer kids going into the technology field. My daughter was one of those honored with the title of High Honors for her high school career. Sitting in the auditorium of our small, local high school, I watched as one student after another walked across the stage and announced what they planned to study in college. Sadly, out of well over one hundred graduates receiving the distinction of High Honors, I was able to count on ONE hand, the number of them planning to enter any kind of technology field.

If your child is obsessed with electronics, I think you would be doing your child and yourself a great service to encourage them to use that obsession in a positive way. Yes, they will most likely squawk about it at first, but in the end you many be very surprised at the outcome.

As a technology teacher, I would recommend starting the younger kids out with something like code.org. If your child is older, they may be ready for codeacademy.com. Help them learn critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Math, although dreaded by many, doesn’t have to be a drudgery. I love tutoring students in math. I really believe that math is a subject that everyone can be good at. It is very critical, however, to try different approaches in teaching it to cater to an individuals learning style. Parents dread math because it wasn’t explained to them in a way that made sense. As a result, they unintentionally pass that dread on to their kids.

One of my go-to supplemental tools for teaching math is Khanacademy.org. It doesn’t work for everyone, but it is a good place to start. Find someone who is passionate about math to mentor you or your child.

When my students were old enough (as early as 4th grade), I would begin teaching them, in my tech class, about binary and the concept of number systems and how they work.

With technology growing at such an exponential rate, critical thinking and problem solving, will benefit anyone entering the job market. Even if you aren’t entering the job market, I’ve heard it is a great way to keep your mind sharp!! 😉

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