How Technology Can Empower Low-Income Youth



In America today, there are people who have the opportunity to receive an education and pursue gainful employment that will allow them to live a comfortable life. Unfortunately, this is not true for many young adults in low-income neighborhoods. For those children whose families cannot provide them with sufficient funds to attend preschool or college, it can be difficult if not impossible to reach their full potential. Technology, however, can be used by these teenagers as a way to empower themselves and develop marketable skills.


Empowerment Through Technology:


America has a long history of favoring technology over manual labor in many workplaces throughout the country. This is especially true of blue-collar professions that require little formal education to learn the tricks of the trade. Technology can provide low-income youth with skills that will allow them to become employed in these types of positions and eventually move up within their companies. Today, many adults who were born into poverty are able to establish good careers because they used technology as a stepping stone out of their old neighborhoods.


One of the ways that technology can empower low-income youth is by teaching them about coding and programming. Through Code School, kids can learn how to program computers to create their own apps and websites, allowing them to have a degree of control over the type of work they do. According to code.org, there are more than 500,000 computer programming jobs in America that are currently unfilled. By the end of 2020, there will be 1.4 million unfulfilled positions available. Only 47% of schools in the United States teach at least one CS course, suggesting that more than half of all schools do not provide a computer science education to its students. Despite the gap between demand for skilled programmers and the actual number of people who know how to create and maintain computer programs, only 33 states in America require programming classes for graduation.


Without access to this education, kids are forced to compete for jobs that do not require extensive training or a high level of technical knowledge. If they are able to secure employment, they might not be able to reach the next level in their careers. This is especially true of low-income teens who are born into those types of communities and have few other opportunities available to them. If they were able to take advantage of the resources that allow them to learn how to program, however, instead of competing for retail jobs, these children could move up through the ranks in technology and earn a salary that would allow them to live comfortably.


These programs are often open to teens who have not yet graduated from high school and want to learn the basics of computer science. They also can be beneficial for adults who already have jobs, but are interested in learning how to program as a second career. The courses are not very expensive and are taught through the internet, so low-income youth have the same access to these educational programs as those who come from more affluent backgrounds.


Coding: An Accessible Future?


Technology can also be used by young adults to gain new skills that they already know how to do. Rather than learn something completely new, like how to program computers, they can use technology to teach themselves about coding. There are plenty of resources available online that allow users to learn the basics of coding for free, or at a very nominal price. One such resource is Codecademy. On this site, anyone who has access to a computer and an internet connection can sign up and begin learning how to program in HTML, Java, Javascript, Ruby, Python and other popular languages. The courses are highly interactive and teach users at a level that is appropriate for their experience.


Another great introductory resource is the Khan Academy. This website provides free online classes on almost any subject. If you type "coding" into the search bar on Khan Academy, hundreds of videos will populate that explain to you how to program in great detail. These videos provide step-by-step instructions for many different languages, so there are plenty of resources for those who are just beginning their computer science education and those who want to brush up on old skills.


There are also websites that specifically cater to low-income youth and teach them about programming in a very fun way. One of these is Scratch. Developed by MIT, on this website, users can create interactive stories, games and various other types of multimedia projects. The individual blocks on the screen show users how to code certain aspects of their projects. For example, if you want to make a character move across the screen, there is a block for that. If you want to make him jump, there is a block for that as well. There are many different kinds of blocks to choose from, so there are thousands of different possibilities for projects. This website is very popular among children who want to learn how to code, and has been recognized by some as the future of teaching computer science.


The main point is that there are many resources for those who are willing to learn. All one needs is access to the internet, and they can teach themselves how to code. Not only do these resources provide teens with important job skills, but they also help them feel empowered and give them a sense of agency over their futures.


To Conclude...


Technology can empower low-income youth in many ways. It can provide them with new job opportunities, or allow them to learn how to program for fun. There are also resources that specifically cater to teen programmers and teach them about programming at an introductory level. Technology is a useful tool for the youth of today.



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