Teaching kids to program

Wired magazine included a how-to page on how to teach kids to program … which starts off:

My kid is 5, about to enter kindergarten. What are some entry points for coding? Fun environments, or basics that are great foundations?

There’s a great list of recommended tools … some of which I knew about (and even tried my hand at) …

Now for a stroll down amnesia lane … I first learned BASIC oh-so-long ago. (Oh, and in college I was plunked into FORTRAN and PASCAL, if you could believe it!).

But what about kids/young people today?? Granted, my entry into programming code was before the common adoption of object-oriented syntax and structure … so I really think that my past experience is just not appropriate at all. 

And I’m wondering about the second question in the quote above … “Fun environments, or basics that are great foundations?” …

Does there have to be a difference at all?!? Can’t there be foundational learning that is also fun?

About Rory

I make my home in the central part of the Garden State along with my family. When I'm not working as an Instructional Designer (focusing mostly on Web-Based learning ... and other eLearning technologies) or researching something, I'm found at home playing computer or video games. Among other things, I volunteer as a choir member and catechist for 8th graders at my parish.
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4 Responses to Teaching kids to program

  1. Daniel Rabe says:

    There is a great learning program called KPL (Kids Porgramming Language) based on .Net I think. Just google it. As far as I know, the earlier versions are freeware.

    It is fun, teaches the basics and and because it is based on something much more powerful, the child is not restricted after he or she progresses to a more advanced level.

  2. nkilkenny says:

    Rupa had a really neat post sometime ago about CSHarp: http://writersgateway.wordpress.com/2007/06/13/csharp-for-sharp-kids-just-for-kids-uh/

    I remember learning Basic… I also remember wiping the drool from my desk after falling asleep in the class. I think I really was waiting for programming that would actually help me create visual effects. I’m actually spending a good deal of time learning actionscript right now and I’m enjoying it a great deal.

    I might be over thinking this, but do you think that teaching programming this early might affect children’s understanding and appreciation of language structure in both a good and a bad way. We learn about our language as children through rhymes and silly poems (and now via the television and computer). What can we learn about written language through the basic understanding of programming structures?

  3. Rory says:

    Daniel – thanks for that recommendation. I’ll give it a try. Much appreciated.

    Nkilkenny – I think that some of the allure and power behind learning programming today is that there is a wealth of choices and many of them give some instant gratification where you can see the effect of your code without having to run the dang thing through a compiler.

    Your observations about acquiring and appreciating language is really interesting. Never thought of it until now.
    I can only speak to my experiences with my own kid … and his preference seems to be in the terse, short-and-sweet mode. His teachers have really worked with him to expand his writing to be much more descriptive.

    But he really gets into manipulating words and phrases to convey his intended meaning. Might that be because he’s into programming? Can’t say … I’ll have to observe and think on it some more.
    Thanks, as always, for your comments.

  4. Pingback: Scratch - from the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at MIT - a visual programming language « Learn-Learn-Learn

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