Smartphones don’t necessarily equal digital readiness
Automation and advanced technologies continue to seep into every aspect of our lives, but recent studies point to a lack of digital skills and readiness among young people – despite the fact that so many young people are glued to their smartphones and highly adept at social media.
So what can we do to interest and involve students in learning about new technologies in a way that’s not only relevant but fun?
We can look at video games, that’s what we can do.
Video games are everywhere
Video games represent a $100 billion global industry and are growing in popularity every year. Nine out of 10 kids in the U.S. regularly play video games, according to Girls Make Games, so it makes sense to ask whether games – when played in moderation – can provide a route to an entrepreneurial mindset, or inspire interest in computer science.
But aren’t they a huge waste of time?
While it might seem that investing hours in a multi-level role-playing-game or building digital cities from scratch could be better spent elsewhere, limited playing of video games has been shown to have a number of benefits.
For example, according to a 2014 study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, playing action video games can improve skills related to cognition, attention, and perception.
Further, video games often require players to think quickly and analytically. Some, like Minecraft, encourage players to modify the gaming environment through add-ons like LearnToMod, software that helps promote “problem-solving, collaboration, and creativity skills,” while introducing gamers to coding.
Do games have a real-world application?
Yes! Some of the most successful tech entrepreneurs regularly credit their interactions with video games – either directly or indirectly – as an inspiration for their businesses.
Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook has pointed out his early interest in video games as contributing to his success in the field of programming, saying in a Facebook Q&A, “I actually think giving people the opportunity to play around with different stuff is one of the best things you can do. I definitely would not have gotten into programming if I hadn’t played games as a kid.”
The same goes for Emmett Shear, co-founder of Twitch, who, in an article originally published by Inc., traced the streaming platform’s origins to his passion for video games, specifically Starcraft 2, which for a while he watched “obsessively.”
And who are some other entrepreneurs who were influenced by video games? How about Elon Musk of Tesla. Larry Page of Google and Alphabet. And Amanda Steinberg of DailyWorth.com
The jobs of the future
Did you know that between 2002 and 2016, the share of U.S. jobs requiring mid- or high-level digital skills jumped from 45 percent to 71 percent? With video games’ inextricable link to coding, creativity, and technology, maybe we should be looking into—and investing in—the potential provided by gaming. As the industry continues to grow, opportunities for the generation of wealth and jobs will also continue to grow.
Getting kids involved in computer science
Here are a few steps parents can take to ensure students are getting computer science education:
- Ask if your child’s school offers computer science and coding classes.
- Explore which resources are appropriate for the classroom and how teachers can incorporate those that are.
- Investigate why students might not be interested in computer science, and develop strategies for igniting their interest.
Last but not least, it’s important to keep in mind that computer science isn’t just for gamers or AP classes. Coding is for everyone and anyone can learn. It’s an essential piece of the 21st-century literacy puzzle, and well worth learning.