2020 has delivered its fair share of surprises—but through the adjustments and hardships, it has also opened up new doors of opportunity.
For kids and teens, school might be tough to endure from a distance, but that just means looking to new learning opportunities. And socially, they might see their friends less than usual, but that just means finding new ways to connect.
A lot of what is newly available in order for families and kids to make these necessary adjustments revolves around online experiences.
For instance, regardless of whether or not your child is going into the classroom right now or learning from home, they might be craving alternative learning solutions; one where they aren't fighting for the attention of their teachers with 30 others. There is in fact the opportunity for this more personal and customized learning endeavor online.
And then, think about the after-school enrichment activities kids used to look forward to aren't currently available. They need to fill time by diving into something else, and while they can't go off to something like robotics club when class lets out, a lot of those opportunities are now being offered online.
And last, as mentioned above, kids and teens miss their friends; or miss the opportunity to make new friends. Given that many are keeping their distances, they have to turn to online means to meet, chat, connect, and simply have fun.
So, taking all of that into consideration - the need to learn, but learn differently, and to do so outside of school, and to do so with others - coding for kids, and online coding specifically is growing significantly in popularity.
My gut tells me a lot of this, but I'm also not just guessing—take a look at this Google trends for "online coding classes for kids."
The popularity of the term is projected to have yet another strong month compared to the many months of the previous few years.
(Meaning, you're certainly not alone in your pursuit of an online coding opportunity for your young one.)
Online Coding Classes for Kids & Teens
If you're here reading this, then you already see the need, and probably already understand the importance of getting your child involved in coding.
The questions, then, are where, and how can they do so? And from who can they learn from?
The good, short answer is that there isn't any shortage of opportunity, from a one-on-one online coding tutor, to after-school coding courses, and more. If your child has an interest in learning coding, they can certainly do so.
I'd also like to add, there are a number of coding websites, apps, and other online portals that help kids and teens learn coding. I do briefly mention these at the end of the post, but in my mind, a "class" has to include some type of live instruction aspect—that is, a live instructor who is teaching to students, or, at the least, even a recording of that instruction.
Given that, here are 10 online coding classes; each of which that is led by a live instructor, with students learning in a group setting, or via a one-on-one tutoring course.
Concepts: Coding & Game Dev
When considering whether or not your child is ready for an online coding course, go about answering the question by asking these preliminary questions:
Does your child enjoy video games? If so, would learning to code through games be a better approach?
And, would they want to start from scratch and build their own project, or, would they do better "remixing" something that already exists?
In the end, there are a number of ways to teach coding to kids, but some of the most successful endeavors apply coding to things kids are already familiar with (like video games, or even social media, or robotics).
By allowing kids to see what code has already created, and then, how code can change those things, kids can easily experience the positive reinforcement found via "If I do this, then that happens," etc.
So, a code remix course provides all of the above, allowing students to modify something like a space invaders game, and building off the foundation others have already put down.
Tools: Python, repl.it
Concepts: Coding & Game Dev
Learn more: Python Coding for Kids
Speaking of classic arcade games, who didn't love playing Tetris? Simple on the surface, but so incredibly addicting. And that's a great lesson—the best games don't have to be extremely complicated and complex. A good idea doesn't have to be extravagant. It's all about how well that idea can be executed.
With Python, one of the best coding languages for kids, students can learn to code—declaring, initializing, and using variables; working with strings, characters, and algorithms, and more. But in addition, they can also learn the value of "replayability," and how to create something players won't want to stop playing.
An important thing to remember about coding is that it's not all just "kid and screen." Coding powers so much, and reaches so far, that you can get your child involved in a coding class that features a particular video game title, or as in this case, robotics.
In an online course like virtual robotics, students are learning to program through block-based coding, meaning, graphical code blocks (similar to Scratch) are used to "teach" bots to perform certain tasks, like navigate a maze, while students get familiar with AI and computational thinking.
Learn more: VEXcode VR
See a theme here? Robots, video games, and now Roblox? Kids find comfort in what they already know, and while it's always great to push comfort levels, you also want to avoid extinguishing the desire to learn something new.
So, back to Roblox—it's only one of the fastest-growing game creation platforms in the world, right? Students at our Roblox summer camps have been learning to code with Lua for a while now, but now students have the ability to jump into an online coding class that features much of the same.
Design, monetize, and publish—Roblox offers it all. Aspiring coders can also practice programming fundamentals with Lua in order to ultimately create the game of their dreams, and making it available for their friends to play as well.
Learn more: How to Make a Game Using Roblox Studio
Yes, Minecraft! Again, games are a great launching point for kids and teens to get involved in coding. Specifically, Minecraft modding allows students to get familiar with Java coding to customize gameplay—for instance, creating new items, changing textures, and making other tweaks for a fresh and new experience.
Using variables, functions, and control structures, students learn to code in Java, while tuning up their logical thinking and problem-solving skills.
Learn more: Educational benefits of Minecraft
Concepts: Coding & Game Design
No matter if you're new to video games or haven't picked up a controller in years, you're probably familiar with the side-scroller, which is a platform game where 2D characters run from left to right to jump and climb the different platforms while avoiding enemies and other traps.
And while it's tough to imagine kids at a young age building such a game from scratch, an easier transition might be to find a coding class that offers skill-building with an already-working game, where students are first tasked with how to get characters to jump higher, or to traverse a level that now has more platforms.
As you can see, or will see shortly, the coding umbrella is big and wide, housing not only different types of creations, but also a number of different languages and methods to go about things.
Think about it—what is it that makes video games fun and interesting? Some get lost in the lifelike nature of titles, while others obviously play for the ongoing entertainment factor.
In addition, though, one huge factor is the game design, and specifically, the main character. Mario, Link, Sonic—classic video game characters that have made their way into mainstream pop culture because they are so special.
Anyway, it's a long way of saying learning to work with game characters can be fun, rewarding, and more.
So, in a coding course with with Unity and the coding language C#, students can work from a code base to customize characters, create special abilities for them, modify their design, give them special tools, and more.
In the end, students are learning to create game environments, along with how to program interactions with C#; helping them think in 3D to create interactive experiences and develop both coding and game design skills.
What's that, your child is more into sports and games like FIFA and Madden? Unity and C# can also be worked with to create a fast-paced, virtual soccer game.
Learn more: Unity
Algorithm—is that a scary word? It can be, right?
Especially for kids who want to get started learning a brand new skill like coding, the act of doing so can be difficult enough, without having to learn new coding terms.
But think about it this way...an algorithm is simply a set of rules to follow. And in applying that to something with which kids do feel comfortable, how about a card game like Rummy or Crazy Eights?
Putting all of that together, Java coding can be used to program that shuffling or dealing of cards, and a deeper understanding of algorithms can open the doors for kids to take a shot at building their own game.
Last but certainly not least, when looking for an online coding class, it might be easy to accept the fact that it's going to be your child and a screen, and devoid of any "hands-on" work outside of hands being on a keyboard.
Which is why I'm excited to say, that doesn't always have to be the case! Thanks to visual coding and the micro:bit, students can literally hold the power of code in their hands.
Learn more: microbit.org
As mentioned above, a "class" is typically more than a website or portal with which a child navigates to learn coding. That said, many families turn to such solutions to get their kids rolling with coding.
There are pros and cons, and advantages and drawbacks to any learning scenario, so the best online coding class for your kids is the one that satisfies your unique needs.
That can be a course with the supervision of a teacher, or one that has a social learning component where students are able to work with other students, and even one in which your students can jump on with immediately while pointing and clicking their way to coding success.