20 Tech Terms Everyone Should Know

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In a world driven by technology, it can seem like the future speaks a new language! And as STEM becomes more and more sophisticated and omnipresent in daily life, it’s important to keep up with the latest lingo.

There’s no doubt, however, that all the new terms can be a bit overwhelming to track! Don’t worry, we’ve compiled a handy glossary to help.

With today’s key techie terms demystified, you’ll be able to help your child build in-demand STEM skills, not to mention understand what the heck they’re talking about! 

Tech Terms Dictionary

As you encourage your child to explore coding, build their own website, or combine their interests by creating a podcast or amazing 3-D prints, it’ll help to understand terms used in school, for fun, and in kids’ extracurricular activities.

These 20 terms range from field-specific to general terms used in tech education nowadays. This resource, plus our Parent’s Roblox Dictionary and Minecraft Words to Know guide will set you up for success with some of the most common tech speak. 

STEM

This acronym is everywhere (including in this post), so it’s a good place to start! STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Each of these disciplines, particularly technology, is projected to grow at nearly double the rate of other professions

STEAM

Add “art” into the mix, and STEM becomes STEAM! Increasingly, kids are encouraged to incorporate the arts and humanities into STEM projects. This is a wonderful way to spark another level of creativity and innovation through projects like stunning video game art, a techie startup for a great cause, or awesome digital music!

Esports

Esports, which stands for electronic sports, are taking the world by storm! It is a competitive field in which individuals and teams compete with video games, sometimes for serious cash. Popular esports games include FIFA, League of Legends, Fortnite, Counter-Strike, and StarCraft, and it’s even classified as a professional sport! Here are additional esports facts.

Iterate

If at first you don’t succeed, iterate, iterate again! Iteration, the art of trying out and refining ideas, code, and prototypes until the right result is achieved, is foundational to STEM. This process often involves collaborating with others and using a scientific approach to developing something new—just a couple of the amazing learning benefits of STEM. 

Code/Program

These two terms can be used interchangeably and mean essentially the same thing: to code/program means using coding languages like Java, Python, or C++ to communicate instructions to a computer. Those “instructions” can evolve into sophisticated software and so much more! Read more coding definitions and learn about the best coding languages for beginners.

Digital divide

The digital divide refers to inequality of access to the internet and other tech-related skills. It might surprise many to learn that, even in this day and age, more than 9 million children lack internet access at home. 

A great way to help combat the digital divide is to recycle old electronics that can be repurposed for those in need! These resources can point you in the right direction: Recycling Finder Near Me, EPA Guide to E-Waste Recycling.

UI/UX

User experience (UX) and user interface (UI) refer to the design that goes into an app, game, website, or other digital interfaces. 21st century tech users expect smooth, interactive online experiences, and encouraging your child to learn how to design them can lead to some exciting, seriously cool job opportunities! 

Machine learning

Machine learning, a type of computer science that uses algorithms to respond to data more and more accurately, just like how humans learn information! It’s a highly advanced, cutting edge field that students can explore as they learn Python. There are many unique benefits to this branch of computer science, chief among them getting to marvel at the real-world applications of machine learning and AI in self-driving cars, cutting-edge medicine, and much more!

AI

Artificial Intelligence (AI) computer programs mimic the human brain. AI applications include identifying specific objects in images and video, spell check and translation features, and even beating humans at arcade and board games. 

Problem-based learning

This hands-on approach to education poses questions like, “What can be done about climate change?” or “What is the best kind of government?” and encourages kids to find answers! As kids acquire the new knowledge they’ll need to generate ideas and get creative and problem-solve. Far from rote memorization and boring worksheets, this rising trend in K-12 involves real-world applications and is a natural fit for pursuing STEM. 

Digital literacy 

Digital literacy, the ability to successfully navigate the technology of the day, is as key to success these days as reading literacy. Encompassing everything from typing to building computer science to understanding how the latest app works, digital literacy is a critical - but sometimes overlooked - skill for young people. 

Even in this day and age, fewer than half of high schools in the US offer computer science classes. So the more parents can encourage kids to build their digital literacy skills both within and beyond the classroom, the better young people will be prepared for the future!

Game design

This is the art and science of building something kids and teens love: video games! From coding the game mechanics to designing cool environments and building levels that are just the right amount of challenging, there’s a lot that goes into game design.

It’s no wonder, therefore, that the market value of the gaming industry is over $151.06 billion dollars, with even more growth predicted through 2027. Introducing your child to this fun field is one of the most engaging ways to get them excited about STEAM.

Monetization

Whether it’s through custom-designed Roblox games or a popular YouTube channel, kids and teens can monetize (make money) from their online projects.  

Top streamers and game creators can earn millions of dollars a year. And yes, even first-time coders can learn to monetize with Roblox and see the literal payoff in cash or Robux. With the right guidance, kids can launch a successful YouTube channel that’s both profitable and an enriching learning opportunity. 

Startup

Uber began as a startup: so did Meta and Amazon. Technology can drive big business and change the world; with an entrepreneur’s mindset, kids and teens have the potential to found the next big name! 

You might also hear the terms “startup culture” or “startup mindset” nowadays. They refer to the innovative, scrappy, think-outside-the-box spirit behind successful, new business ventures. 

Algorithm

An algorithm is a set of guidelines that describe how to perform a task. Think of them as step-by-step instructions that create a predictable pattern in a set of numbers or in lines of code. If you’ve ever scrolled through social media, followed GPS directions, or attached a JPEG or “zipped” file to an email, you’ve experienced some of the most everyday algorithms, and now you’ll recognize them at work!

Data science

Data science is a rapidly growing field that involves taking vast amounts of data and, often through running sophisticated algorithms, gleaning valuable information from that data. Boasting an average annual salary of $100,560, data science is accelerating both in types of job opportunities and overall demand. 

Streaming

YouTube. Spotify. Twitch. These are just a few of the biggest names in streaming, an industry built around digitally sharing music, video, and other content. 

By 2028, the global streaming market is estimated to be worth $223.98 billion. Safely exploring streaming is an excellent means of encouraging young people to express themselves, and potentially generate a lucrative side hustle

Digital citizenship

While digital literacy refers to the knowledge and skills associated with the online world, digital citizenship addresses how people present themselves and interact with others online. Unfortunately, we live in a world in which cyberbullying is very real, and staying safe online can sometimes be easier said than done. 

It’s critical for parents to talk with kids about how to be a good “digital citizen” as they respectfully interact with others, protect their identities, and safely explore all the web has to offer. 

Computational thinking

Computational thinking is a wide umbrella term that describes breaking down processes into steps, much like a computer does. And if you’re thinking, “wait, surely that kind of mindset applies to more than just STEM,” you’re absolutely right!

That’s just one of many reasons why learning to code is more approachable than many think it is. Strong computational thinking will serve kids well in life as well as in their STEM classes. 

VR/AR

Virtual reality (VR) is an immersive, simulated world that users can interact with, often by using hardware like an Oculus headset. VR technology is used in everything from fun video games like BeatSaber to elite athlete training, medicine, and more as the technology grows.

Augmented reality (AR) adds digitized enhancements to what users see as they experience daily life. Both of these fields are experiencing a meteoric rise right now: the size and career opportunities in VR and AR technologies predicted to grow 7.7 times between 2018 and 2022

Today’s tech—tomorrow’s endless opportunities! 

While a career in STEM may seem eons away for your child, it never hurts to have options! We’re heading for a techie reality fast: by 2025, 3.5 million STEM jobs will go unfilled. There’s also a serious shortage of qualified candidates for STEM majors, which leaves a window of opportunities for young innovators! 

Now that you know some basic tech terms, encourage your child (using your new vocab, of course!) to dive in and see what’s possible in the wide world of tech. 

A photo of Virginia

Virginia started with iD Tech at the University of Denver in 2015 and has loved every minute since then! A former teacher by trade, she has a master's in education and loves working to embolden the next generation through STEM. Outside the office, you can usually find her reading a good book, struggling on a yoga mat, or exploring the Rocky Mountains.