Sharing code-love with youngsters
I’m writing my post mainly to moderately desperate parents seeing their children in front of computer screens flooded with seemingly useless games. I’m also writing my post to excited older brothers/older sisters/uncles/aunts whose lives’ are devoted (~committed, ha ha.) to making the world a better place with programming. And this post is definitely for all of those who wish to share their love of computers with kids. This post surely won’t give you any kind of magic spell to suddenly make everyone interested in exactly the field you personally prefer, but it may help with some useful advice on how to get started, and I will also try to expand your perspective to understand the learning process and people better. We will start with a little psychology with the aim of turning out a list of platforms and software suitable for children to improve their skills of algorithmicthinking, game-creating by themselves and generally translating their ideas to code.
I’ve been teaching children of age 7 up to 14 about various kinds of topics, but in the last few years I’ve concentrated on informatics. During this time I experienced how the “perfect” learning process can bedifferentfor each person, but we can surely find some stuff in common. The first thing that you probably want to discover is the main motivators of the child who you wish to teach.Tips About Motivation: In my opinion, the most valuable part of any game is the time you spend together. Once you have their strong interest, children might continue on their own. But before that, the first motivator is your presence; the time you invest really helps. After that, kids usually hope for their parents to be proud of them. A few nice words to acknowledge their projects can help them associate programming with positive feelings. This will be very important later on. And to make those positive feelings even better, make sure you pay attention to their personality while choosing the platform. There are tons of possibilities so it’s not a big deal to give them a chance to work with robots, cars, ponies, Lego, fairies or even kitties if they prefer. You needn’t be too serious about it. If their favorite character is Batman, then definitely get damn Batman on the screen for them. I also advise to adapt to their priorities. By this, I mean: find out what the most important isfor Them in the project. If they think the best thing to do is to program real playable games, then the task they receive should follow this line. If they think, most of all coding should be useful, then you need to actually use the note-takingapp they made you… or, of course, whateverthe project they made you may be. This way, they will feel that they’ve done serious work and it is truly important to you. Adapting to children’s world during development is the way to go. Colorful user interfaces, including animals and lots of pictures might keep their interest longer. While explaining any code, try to keep it clear and simple (which is the case with adults, too). It is always a good idea to use examples withwhich they are familiar. (Tips on imagining Classes and inheritance:Animal is the parent class, with common characteristics like health points, number of legs as variables, moving and turning around as functions. All of these inherited into Birds with place of nest as a local variable and a singing function.) Pay attention to the fact that kids have a shorter frustration tolerance. Under the age of 9 10 years, you will face an impossible challenge with keeping their focus longer than ~30 40 minutes. When you see them getting bored, give them a break to run around, do something which involves moving (or anything fun, but unrelated). And finally, show interest towards the game they play by themselves; listen to them. I’m sure they’ll be overjoyed by explaining it to you. You may not have the time to join there as well, but at least you can contribute a little by setting goals. Ask them to build something specific for you. If they do play Minecraft, if it’s possible,suggest to measure the time it takes them to complete a level or choose quests together and congratulate them when they succeed. Tips About the Platform:
The topics and the appearance is suitable for both kind of gender stereotypes. They offer a surprisingly wide area of character personalization. This is cool, but of course at least half of the costumes are locked at first. The figures and the backgrounds are beautiful. Tynker also shows tutorials and examples to give you a basic knowledge about using the block language. Moreover, you can publish your work and explore the community around you. If your eyes are sharp enough, you can find a Teacher Guide included for some of the tutorials. I found the amount of physics-related options included in the block library very interesting. For example: using gravity, applying forces, detecting distance and collisions. They also happen to have a lot of MineCraft-specific content and games with very teenage girlish looks. I would recommend it from age 8 and up, because reading is not a problem by then.
robozzle.comThis one is kind of tricky. It is a puzzle game with a level creator, but clearly uses the “theory” of programming. A few basic commands are available for you to control the “robot” on the stage, like moving forward, turning, and jumping to a function. Th