Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Coding With Kids

Being able to write code is one way to move passive app and game users into more active learning. Writing your own code puts you in charge of choices and provides basic skill development that could become crucial as technology expands exponentially.

Coding also helps students learn to communicate clearly and with precision, and requires an attention to detail not found in many other areas of communication.

The Hour of Code movement promotes the exploration of code writing by students of all ages in order to introduce coding in an accessible manner. There are many Hour of Code activities that can be done with kids who have no experience with coding. Here is a quick sampler of some of the activities I've tried with my family: A family favourite, Scratch is an intuitive drag-and-drop building block style programming platform that helps introduce basic programming logic, yet can be used to create some surprisingly complex programs. It is accessible to even primary students, but provides enough challenge to retain relevance for older students as well. Be careful though, this one is very addictive! Minecraft is a game, yes, but here you can use another drag-and-drop block based programming platform based on Javascript in order to create an adventure for Steve or Alex. Like many other aspects of Khan Academy, the activities here are somewhat more prescribed, but may suit learners who find an abundance of choice to be overwhelming. Here you can find many more activities, apps and also "unplugged" coding activities for Hour of Code that require no electronics whatsoever
. We have tried Rock, Paper, Scissors and enjoyed it without the use of any devices. For students with some coding experience, MIT's android app maker may be of interest. Students can work with their android device, or use an android emulator on a PC to run their programs.

Grace Hopper, 1952

Where did it all come from?

Along with actual coding, the history of programming is also quite interesting.

In this clip from the 1970's Connections series with James Burke you can see how weaving looms led to punch cards which led to modern coding:

Much of modern coding was made possible by the early work of various female pioneers in the field. Grace Hopper create the first compiler, for example, which allowed binary input to be converted into a programming language.
The links below include interesting articles that highlight the contributions of women in the field, and also discuss how the demographic of the "typical programmer" changed over time:

Here is a blog post about how the act of knitting is closely related to coding:

The history and use of punch cards can be found here:

And for those who are particularly interested, here is an odd and long 1st-hand account of learning to program with punch cards in the 70's

Happy coding!