Rapid technological advancements and emerging technologies has led to greater attention to the types of skills students need to be successful in current and future careers. Access to mobile devices and the Internet has changed the way we consume information and interact with each other, while the increasing amount of data has led to developments in AI and machine learning to make and automate decisions and tasks. Exposing students to computer science and programming is important to help them better understand the world around them and equip them with the skills they need as adults. So what are the top programming skills that kids should learn? Computer science and programming is a broad area, but these programming skills will prepare kids for anything the future holds.
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Discover the top programming skills that kids should learn
Technology changes so frequently! What is popular or relevant today could become obsolete ten years from now. However, there are several programming skills that kids should learn that will be relevant and applicable to current and future innovations.
1. Making a website
People turn to the web to find websites for both businesses and individuals to get information about products and services they offer. Nowadays, websites are even used by individuals as online portfolios, resumes, or as blogs to post about favorite hobbies. Making a website consists of planning what pages the website will have, how the user will navigate through the pages, and the images and media that will be on the website. Learning how to make a website helps kids gain a better understanding of how the web works and improves how they navigate and find information on the web while also exposing them to the foundations of web development.
Best for grades: 5 to 12
2. Finding information and identifying trends in data
More and more businesses use data to make decisions and develop new products. This data is often collected from user activities on apps and websites which are then processed and analyzed by programs to find information and identify trends. Businesses look for information and trends to determine what consumers like and don't like, what products or features are popular, or to recommend similar products based on previous purchases. Many roles across most industries requires some form of data analysis skills, making this an important skill for kids to learn.
Which programming language to learn: Python is one of the most popular programming languages used in data science and has several libraries available for processing and analyzing data, including NumPy and Pandas.
Best for grades: 5 to 12
How to get started: Kids can take our Data Science with Python and Pandas classes to learn how to use the Pandas library to process and analyze data. Kids will learn what data science consists of and the tasks data scientists perform to find information and identify trends.
3. Creating a game for entertainment or to teach a concept
Many people love games, whether they are games on mobile devices or games on gaming consoles. But games aren't just for entertainment – games are used in schools to help students practice a new concept or even by some businesses to train employees. Knowing how to develop games not only prepares students for potential careers in the gaming industry but also provides them a better understanding of the functionality of games they play or encounter and what makes a game successful. Learning how to create a game also introduces students to many fundamental programming concepts that are applicable to other types of apps and programs and teaches them to think critically about problems they want to solve in other areas.
Which programming language to learn: Video games are often developed using programs like Unity, Unreal, or Roblox and can be for entertainment or to even teach a concept. While game development tools make it easy to create a game with little coding, they often require knowledge of C# or Lua to implement the game logic.
Best for grades: 3 to 12
How to get started: Kids can take our Unity Game Development classes to learn how to create games using Unity and C# or our Coding with Roblox Studio classes to learn how to create Roblox games and worlds using Roblox Studio and Lua. Kids can also take our Beginner Roblox Game Coding classes to start learning the basics of Roblox game coding or our Advanced Roblox Game Coding classes to explore and build complex Roblox games.
4. Creating a mobile app
Mobile devices make it possible for people to keep in touch with family and friends, perform personal and work tasks, buy products and services, and access various forms of entertainment on the go. Many businesses have both a website and a mobile app to accommodate the different ways people might engage with their products or services. Learning how to create a mobile app helps kids understand how these apps work on their devices and the types of permissions and data they require to function properly. It also allows kids to apply programming knowledge and skills to create something they encounter in the real world everyday and consider the types of apps they might want to create to solve a problem that hasn't been addressed yet by existing apps.
Which programming language to learn: Android apps are developed using Java or Kotlin, while iPhone apps are developed using Swift. Some tools, like MIT App Inventor, make it easy to develop apps using a block-based programming language instead.
Best for grades: 4 to 12
How to get started: Kids can take our Mobile Coding for Apps and Games classes to learn how to create mobile apps and games with the block-based coding platform Thunkable or our Java Primer with Android classes to learn the basics of Android app development and Java. Kids can also learn Swift by taking the Learn Swift course on Codecademy.
5. Teaching an AI how to respond and make decisions
The large amount of data available makes it possible to create programs that can make predictions, respond to user requests and questions, and make decisions. Artificial intelligence (AI) applications make our lives easier by automating simple tasks or allowing us to interact with a computer in a conversational way. Since AI is still relatively new, there are still opportunities for improvements to make these applications smarter and eliminate bias. Learning how to create AI applications helps kids better understand the functionality and limitations of AI and even consider how they can improve existing applications.
Which programming language to learn: AI and machine learning applications are often developed using Python. While some are developed using C++, most use Python because of the many libraries available to create and train an AI.
Best for grades: 5 to 12
How to get started: Kids can take our Python for AI classes to learn Python fundamentals and how to develop simple AI applications or our AI Explorers classes to learn how self-driving cars, facial recognition, and other AI applications work. Kids can also take our more advanced AI Creators classes to apply what they learn about Python and AI to develop AI and machine learning applications that learn how to work with digital images.
6. Teaching a robot how to move and respond to interactions
Robotics is growing in popularity just as much as AI applications. There is an increasing desire to use automation and robotics to automate simple human tasks or to take on tasks that are often too dangerous for humans. Some are concerned that robots will replace human jobs, but this technology will also create many new jobs! People will be needed to design, develop, and maintain robots as these take a larger role in our society. As a result, learning how to teach a robot to move and respond to interactions will help kids understand the importance and benefits of this technology and prepare them for the future.
Which programming language to learn: Many robots developed and used in the real-world are programmed using C or C++. However, as this technology continues to expand, some are even being developed in other programming languages!
Best for grades: 2 to 8
How to get started: Kids can start by taking our Junior Robotics classes to learn how to teach a robot to move, sense, lift, and more in a virtual environment. From there, kids can take our Robot Adventures classes to further expand their skills to design, build, and code robots. These classes teach kids robotics primarily using Scratch, but the knowledge gained can be easily transferred to real-world programming languages like C and C++. Kids can learn the C++ programming language through the Learn C++ course on Codecademy.
7. Stopping hackers from gaining access to private and sensitive data
We share a lot of private and sensitive information on the Internet on a variety of different websites and apps, such as banking websites and social media. We trust these companies to keep our data private and secure, and these companies need to be prepared to stop hackers from accessing this information. Learning how companies protect our data is important for kids, as this not only helps them understand how information is secured and transmitted on the Internet, but also helps them understand best practices for sharing information.
Best for grades: 2 to 8
8. Creating software for Internet-connected devices
Computers and cell phones are not the only things connected to the Internet nowadays. Internet-connected devices now include watches, thermostats, cameras, gaming consoles, refrigerators, TVs, and more! These devices all require software to perform their intended functions, transmit information on the Internet, and provide an easy to use interface for users. Learning how this software is created improves understanding of how the devices in our homes work and makes it possible for kids to consider how they might connect other devices to the Internet to improve how we use them. If these devices malfunction, kids will know how to find and fix potential problems faster and more accurately.
Which programming language to learn: Smart devices are often developed using Java, C, or Python. The specific programming language that is used to develop software for a device often depends on the type of device itself and what operating system it runs.
Best for grades: 4 to 9
How to get started: Kids can start by taking our Smart Devices: Arduino for Kids classes to learn how to create and program circuits and Arduino. Kids can then take our Python for AI classes to learn Python fundamentals or our Introduction to Java Programming classes to learn Java fundamentals that they can then use to develop software for smart devices.
9. Creating interactive virtual or augmented reality apps and games
Virtual and augmented reality is gaining popularity, and many businesses are exploring how these technologies can be used to enhance the user experience with their products and services. These opportunities range from providing training in a virtual environment to allowing a consumer to see what a product will look like in their home. Kids can take the knowledge they have about mobile apps and programming languages to consider how they might make more interactive experiences for users. The knowledge and skills kids gain from creating interactive virtual or augmented reality apps and games will also help them better understand how existing technologies work and how they can improve these.
Which programming language to learn: Many virtual or augmented reality apps and games are created using C#, C++, or Java. The specific programming language used often depends on the type of device being used, as virtual reality apps often require a standalone headset and augmented reality apps can be run on mobile devices.
Best for grades: 6 to 12
How to get started: Kids can start learning how to create a virtual reality game through the courses and resources offered here. If kids do not already have experience with Unity or Unreal, they can start by learning Unity through our Unity Game Development classes.
10. Developing cloud computing applications
Many people use cloud computing applications everyday. Cloud computing makes it possible for us to access files from multiple devices or start a task on one device and continue it on another. This technology also makes it possible for people to interact with content and one another in real-time. Learning how cloud computing applications are developed and function helps kids understand what has now become a key component of the Internet.
Which programming language to learn: Cloud computing apps are often developed using Java, PHP, or Python. These programming languages are popular for creating web applications and include libraries specifically for cloud computing.
Best for grades: 6 to 12
How to get started: Kids can start by taking our Cloud Computing for Web Apps classes to learn how to build scalable web apps using cloud computing.
Get started with top programming skills that kids should learn
The world of computer science is full of endless possibilities for kids to explore and learn skills in various areas. Learning how the technologies we use every day are developed helps kids better understand the world around them and prepares them for future technological advancements. Kids can get started learning these top programming skills by taking our courses or even courses on websites like Codecademy. Many students enjoy our award-winning online Minecraft building class, led live by an expert, and designed by professionals from Google, Stanford, and MIT.
Written by Jamila Cocchiola who has always been fascinated with technology and its impact on the world. The technologies that emerged while she was in high school showed her all the ways software could be used to connect people, so she learned how to code so she could make her own! She went on to make a career out of developing software and apps before deciding to become a teacher to help students see the importance, benefits, and fun of computer science.