Teaching kids to code

Coding as used throughout this article refers to the ability to write instructions for computers to interprete and execute.

In the second half of 2018, one of the things the vLearnHQ will focus on is helping interested parents help their kids learn how to code. For most parents, it will be an opportunity to learn to write computer software themselves.

Learning to code doesn’t have to be difficult. And so does helping your kids do it, even for parents who have never coded in their lives.

This blog post will be the first installment on this journey to help those parents who are interested get started.

Why teach kids how to code?

Coding as used throughout this article refers to the ability to write instructions for computers to interprete and execute. The set of skills required for these types of activities are expected to become common place in the future our kids will live in, much like Microsoft Office tools are an integral part of our own world today. So getting the kids started early will serve to provide the kids an advantage and a leverage for when (a) they are formally required to learn to code in school (b) they need holiday jobs and can do some work from the comfort of their homes (yes, as kids) and possibly also get a head start in the coming world of work – which will be decentralised (very few will need to go to a physical office daily to WORK) and skills based (you are hired strictly for the two or three things you are an expert at by several businesses irrespective of size and turnover).

How do you go about teaching kids how to code?

Ok, let’s get this straight, coding is tough. That is until you have acquired the discipline required to do it. If in doubt, imagine how difficult it is for a newbie to read the code below and interpret what it is expected to do never mind  having to write something similar by heart without any prior training.

Figure 1 – the classic game ping pong written in the programming language Python

However, there are two main options for starting to learn to code. One is to get into the deep-end and learn coding the hard way, or two, get on the coding bandwagon in a simple and fun way using visual programming languages.

Kids love to play – I am yet to meet one that doesn’t.

However, look at the image below and tell me if it is not relatively easier for one to visually assemble elements to form a coherent instruction(s)?

Figure 2 – Code snippet in the visual programming language Scratch

I expect your answer to my poser above to be yes! If it is still no, we need to talk and you can email me at olu@vLearnHQ.com.

The snippet displayed in Figure 2 above is part of a game in which a ball is chased around the screen by a kitten controlled by the game player. The snippet is the part of the programme (set of computer instructions that is the game) responsible for managing the behaviour of the ball in the game and its response to the user instructions. The snippet as well as the entire programme is written in the visual programming language Scratch and the screenshot below displays some additional instructions that may be added to the code snippet in Figure 2 to change the behaviour of the ball in the game.

Figure 3 – Additional Controls/instruction set you could add to the programme to change the behaviour of the ball

 

And the short video below shows the game (programme) being played (run and interacted with).

Figure 4 – Short demonstration video

Why are graphics [visuals] better than text?

Novice programmers are fighting two battles at once: the fight to translate their ideas into logical statements, and the fight to keep the syntax correct. Blockly [a visual programming language] makes it completely impossible to make a syntax error. There are no unbalanced parentheses, no unescaped strings, no missing semicolons. Blockly allows novice programmers to concentrate on the logic of required to solve the problem at hand. Thus reducing the battle for the starter programmer to just one – get logic right..

Additionally, many non-programmers find a blank screens with a blinking cursors daunting. How does one start?

Blockly allows these users to browse through the menu of blocks and start plugging things together. [copied from: https://neil.fraser.name/blockly/about/faq   all parenthesis above are mine]

Keep an eye out here or send me an email to let me know of your interest in learning to code with your kids and we will keep you informed of our plans.

Best,

Oluwakorede

 

2018-07-15

2 responses on "Teaching kids to code"

  1. Interested. Was actually thinking about it a couple of days ago.

    • Hello Paul –

      I am putting together the first cohort of people who will collaboratively learn how to code with scratch with the aim to go on to teach their kids.

      With your permission, I will add you to this group.

      Thank you,
      Olu

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