I know what some of you are thinking. I don’t know what to do with this so how am I going to help my daughter/son in coding and what is this coding? Coding is just another term for computer programming.
Great so now I have to go out and buy hundreds of dollars on equipment?
No, simply , the device you have at home, that you use in the family situation, 9 out of 10 times is the perfect starting position. I recommend everyone starts at part 1, however by the end of all the courses you may have to look at getting something else.
The very first thing you have to think about before wading into the coding is what level of literacy or reading is your daughter/son? What year are they at in school? Can they read their sight words and extend themselves further. If your child is in year 3 or above in Australia, normally their reading level is high enough for them to understand the words/syntax/programming language. Lower than this, many students aren’t able to read these words just yet, but that is OK, because they are building up their vocabulary with knowing the programming language to use.
The best place to start is Code.org . They are a non profit organisation interested in just teaching children to learn how to code. Many students are introduced to the concept of “The Hour of Code” which is held in December annually. The best introduction to coding and gauge their interests would be to start at the Hour of Code option. Most children, well at least the ones I know, LOVE one of the three following concepts. Star Wars, Minecraft, and Frozen.
There is a reason to why I have started here and not with one of the many other places that offer coding. In the classroom I encourage teachers to teach the students scratch from MIT. These options from the hour of code are based off scratch. Although a little simplified it allows students to really get involved in playing the game which is actually learning to code. This is an example of the Minecraft code.
The navigation around the page and performing instructions are relatively easy. Drag and drop with a mouse, or tap, drag and drop on a tablet. As you can see, the instructions for moving the Minecraft “Steve” around are simple for you and I, but for students that are learning to read, they might not be.
Once your child, you feel is ready to move on from this hour of code. I would recommend moving over to SCRATCH by MIT. This offers the next step, in starting to develop a higher vocabulary of the students with more options to create you own games. This is a very simple example of a character I created in a game I made.
When your child is developing quality games/animations etc. and they are ready to move on the next move is really a decision in what language do they want to learn, and what do they want to make. As far as I see it, students should take 1 of 2 pathways. The pathways more rest with what the children are trying to achieve and build with their programming. Here are the options.
Code Academy – Text based, quick easy lessons
Khan Academy – Video based, quick easy lessons
Path 2 – Python – A real language
Python is undoubtedly one of the most robust, but easy to use programming languages out there. Learning Python is a fantastic basis to become an extremely skilled programmer/coder. An ever growing list of companies hiring employees that use Python as their main basis. Python is extremely useful in all different types of situations from building web server, web apps, desktop apps and pretty much you name it, it can almost do it (With a few exceptions).
What do I need to do this? Equipment
This is probably the easiest and hardest questions to answer at the same time. The best way to explain my answer is what I would do with my own child.
Using your existing equipment is fantastic and the way forward for the parts 1 and part 2 of learning to code. However, when children then start to go off into the wild world of coding (not wild) on their own, then some consideration is required of what you need to be successful at it. If you have a laptop, whether it be running Windows or OSX (Macbook) there is no need to change.However if you only own an iPad or tablet of some kind, then the move to a more traditional computer would be wise. However I have another alternative.
The Raspberry Pi sold here is available and is basically the cheapest computer you can buy. It is literally a box, that when connected to a tv or a monitor is a mini computer. The link that I provided is for the whole starter kit (about $100 worth) and would be a great way for children to learn to code. I have a few and will provide a step by step tutorial on how to set this up best for students to learn how to code.
Hopefully I have been able to provide a clear and concise pathway for children/students to learn how to code. This is just my personal opinion and not of any of my employers. The pathway I have provided hopefully will help parents/teachers view the learning steps I see as important to develop future coders. This is only the beginning on this adventure. I hope to turn this site into a gateway to introduce and engage students into the STEM fields with both teacher theory information as well as practical insights, steps, tutorials into world of coding, robots, and technology.
If you are interested in seeing what skills and different thinking skills are used in coding/programming have a look at my entry on Computational Thinking.
Please feel free to leave questions and comments and I will try and return to you as soon as I can.
Disclaimer: First, a little about me. I am a teacher, however I am also a programmer/coder who likes to immerse them self in as much technology as humanly possible. So I come at this brave new world from a different perspective, what is best for both the child as an educator, and as a coder (The term coder is the cooler word for computer programmer). These views are my own and not of any of my employers.