Today I asked the following question on twitter:
How do I learn to teach my kids to code / programme? Any pointers by those in the know?
— Robert McIntosh (@thirstforwine) February 17, 2014
I got some really interesting replies and links which I thought I would share (below). First some background.
The last time I truly “programmed” I was using BASIC and it was 1985. I failed to “get” HEX and therefore stopped, though I still loved computers. I did dabble with some very simple HTML in recent years, but only to tweak or fix things that others had built. I don’t think I ever built anything from scratch.
However, I realise it is important to understanding how things work, and more importantly to creating something new, for kids to get the new language of communication. As far as I am concerned, learning “languages” isn’t just about reading and writing, but also music, gaming, and sports. These all have rules, symbols and behaviours that one can absorb in order to understand their order. If I am to do the right thing for my kids, opening doors for opportunities in the future, it is important to give them the chance to learn to code.
So, how does a non-coder teach kids to code?
Well, I’ll let you know as we progress, but here are suggestions made by friends and contacts on twitter which could be really interesting.
Learning to code for parents and kids:
- Hello Ruby (via @BarlowDoherty): exactly what I was looking for, but only at development stage. A Kickstarter project to create book to teach parents and their daughters (mainly) to code through stories and a workbook. Fantastic idea! I’ve bought in – YOU SHOULD TOO, but you only have 4 days left!
This is from the site: “Hello Ruby will be a classic journey of discovery that teaches the readers about different people working together, how problems can be solved in small sequences and how remixing and sharing helps everyone.“
- Primo (via encosion): another Kickstarter campaign (this one has been funded too) to create a tool kit to teach kids to make things as a prelude to programming and building circuits. Looks great, though probably aimed at too young an audience for my kids.
- Code.org (via @tinystrings): this is more of a campaign than a tool – to bring coding to all US schools. They’ve got some high profile backers and have made a game-like tutorial to get you started. Useful but rather specific.
- Kids Ruby (via @siepert): a fun looking site allowing kids to actually programme and see the results quickly. It looks good, but the site documentation is a little sparse and I am not sure how much I need to know myself before introducing it to my daughter.
- Robot Turtles (via @candlelight): this is actually a board game that teaches young kids the fundamentals of programming. Could be interesting for my younger son, possibly a bit young for my 9 year old.
Learning to programme (for adults) – not what I was looking for, but a useful resource nonetheless:
- Team Treehouse (via @megcarpen): a really nicely designed online course for adults wanting to learn coding and development skills. I don’t have any ambition to do this myself at this stage, only learn enough to guide my kids’ learning. If there was a specific course on “Teaching kids to code for Parents who can’t and Don’t Want to” I’d be signed up in a flash. Good resource for those that way inclined however.
- w3schools.com (via kevplaysbass): pretty serious programming reference and learning site. Beyond my ken!
We have already got one really cool tool. It doesn’t sell itself as a programming learning tool, but as a LEGO-themed app. My son loved this in particular and I’m sure has already benefited greatly from the “way of thinking” necessary to succeed in the game.
(this is the Android link – search iTunes for iOS version)
Image above from Linda Liukas’ Hello Ruby project – please do back it while you can!