Coding for Kids

What skills to learn, what tools to get
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horsewoman
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Coding for Kids

Post by horsewoman » Fri Jul 12, 2019 3:50 am

There seems to be an abundance of IT people here, so maybe someone can point me in a good direction.
I'd like to introduce my 11 yo daughter to coding, since I think it might be a useful skill to have later on (Renaissance woman in the making - sewing and coding ;) ). There was an older thread by EdithKeeler where Jacob mentioned that "kids start with Phyton these days" - is this still the case?

I should add that at the moment her interest in computers is manly watching youtube hair styling videos, so we would start at 0. OTOH she's an Aspi, and there is of course this cliche about computers and coding... It might be that she'll not take to coding at all, but I'd like provide her with the means at least. I'd like to learn alongside her as well.

Nomad
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Re: Coding for Kids

Post by Nomad » Fri Jul 12, 2019 6:27 am

@Horsewoman
Back 'in the day', people used to learn the BASIC programming language. The other thing was Turtle programming which is a bit like coding a
an etch-a-sketch. https://turtleacademy.com/lessons
Python is a newer thing and I don't really know anything about it. Your daughter is only young, so I would start with simple things.
Another thing is creating spreadsheets in Excel or OpenOffice Calc. Creating the cell formulas etc. is relevant.

Also, there are excellent tools for learning programming languages such as vidoes, MOOC's etc. e.g.
https://www.coursera.org/learn/intro-programming

Quadalupe
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Re: Coding for Kids

Post by Quadalupe » Fri Jul 12, 2019 7:02 am

Fun first is very important, especially for an eleven year old! Check out https://scratch.mit.edu/ for a visual introduction aimed at kids. I’ve tutored some 8 year olds with this and it’s a perfect starting environment.

Unless she explicitely shows an interest in making command line applications, I’d stick to visual programs for now... and if she does, buy her SpaceChem (https://store.steampowered.com/app/9280 ... d=32946839) or TIS 100 (https://store.steampowered.com/app/370360/TIS100/) .

Fun games that are actually programming tutorials in disguise.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Coding for Kids

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Fri Jul 12, 2019 7:42 am

If you have a programmable embroidery machine, these may be of interest:

https://snap.berkeley.edu/site/

https://www.turtlestitch.org/page/about

Snap! is Berkeley's extension of Scratch which was developed by MIT's Lifelong Kindergarten group -lol:

You can also make use of a turtle library or module when programming in Python. The lifelong learning site Brilliant offers a course in Python which utilizes turtle(), but I think it is a bit too advanced for most 11 year old children (and it is not free). However, you could take this course yourself and use it to help your daughter create original math based embroidery designs.

Some other options which teach the sort of ordered thinking needed in coding and are fun for kids that age are animation and music making tools. I recently worked with 3rd graders who were making animated storybooks and the kids who were digging deeper to do something really different or cool with their project were thinking in a manner not unlike professional coders. My daughter is 28, but one of the best birthday/slumber parties I threw for her was when she was 11 or 12 and I bought her what was then a fairly advanced studio tool meant for adults, and the girls were up all night burning their CD.

https://catapult.kinja.com/how-to-teach ... 1819954263

One activity I sometimes do with children as young as 4 or 5 is the Robot Game. I gather the children on the carpet and we work together to choose movements to associate with large dots of different colors. For instance, green dot = hands on your head and pink dot = stick out your tongue, etc. Then with large chart as reference, I pair the kids up with one partner being The Robot and the other partner being The Programmer (we discuss the meaning of this word first.) Then I hand out long strips of blank paper on which The Programmer draws an ordered line of colored dots which The Robot then acts out. The kids love this game, most of them catch on very quickly, and many of them immediately jump to coming up with their own creative variations on the theme.

Another game I used to play with my own children was Treasure Hunt. I would hide a series of puzzles around the house with the answer to each puzzle being the location of the next puzzle ending with a prize. You could try combining the Robot Game with Treasure Hunt at a level of sophistication appropriate for an 11 year old and I think that would be great fun for her and her friends, especially given that you have a whole farm over which to direct movements and hide clues. You could even have some of the clues be in code or cryptography which they would have to use a computer to run or decode. etc. etc. etc.

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Lemur
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Re: Coding for Kids

Post by Lemur » Fri Jul 12, 2019 12:56 pm

I was introduced to programming when I came across "Game Maker."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Overmars
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GameMaker_Studio

Would literally stay up to 3am + for this passion...actually my grades in Middle School fell because I was addicted to it.

So if I was going to introduce a child to programming...make it fun.

cimorene12
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Re: Coding for Kids

Post by cimorene12 » Fri Jul 12, 2019 1:24 pm

Al Sweigart has some good materials on learning how to use Python, but they aren't geared towards children. If you're learning alongside her, though, I think that it's appropriate. He has one book about making your own computer games.
https://inventwithpython.com/about.html

I learned how to code with Python in a Coursera class. I really love Charles Severance's teaching style.
https://www.coursera.org/learn/python

When teaching people in my own family, I've had them use Codecademy.
https://www.codecademy.com/learn/learn-python-3

bigato
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Re: Coding for Kids

Post by bigato » Fri Jul 12, 2019 2:00 pm

I only learned programming because in my case, it was the only way to play games. There were these magazines, back in the 80's, that would came with BASIC games in then. At some point you learn that you can change the messages for something funnier. The manual that came with it was also very well explained.
I lived in a farm for most of my childhood and for some time there wasn't even electricity. Other than that, I had a lot of space to be bored. Other than playing in nature, ooks and this little computer that you would plug to tv and program basic were the most fun things around. Oh, and latter a bicycle. It was a big advantage that there weren't so many distractions as there are today. Definitely try to find something fun that accidentally involves programming, and be open to the idea that her personality may not be a good fit for it. There's nothing wrong if that is the case, just don't try to force anything.

I had a distant father and that hurted me a lot. But two things that make me bow down to him are: one, he never talked to me as if I was a child. He always treated me as another conscious human being and when I remember some stuff he told, I am quite impressed of how early he did it. Like when I was 9 or so and he told me that he smoked marijuana, and that he didn't recommend it, that it was not a good thing. I understood it and didn't became an addict for it or something. Actually, I don't even drink. When he gave me the computer, he sat with me for one hour and went through a couple of simple programs and examples, like drawing random circles on the screen. He told me not to try to memorize anything, just pay attention. Just showing basic code to an 8 years old as if it were the most normal thing in the world. And it felt normal.

Another thing that he did right is that the toys he gave us were almost always something useful for learning, or books. When he gave me the little computer, he told me that if didn't do that, someone else would give me a videogame and that would be a waste of time. Early on I had a chemical lab for kids, an optics kit. Gosh, he was not thinking right when he gave me an electronics kit when I was like 5. That was a bit too much, but only because he was not around to guide me nor there could my iliterate granparents help me in that. That kit went to waste. When I was a teen, he recommended that I should learn english. He would print articles in english from the internet (I didn't have access back then) and send me in a letter so that I could translate them using a dictionary. Soon I was able to read books and then I never stopped. It was very useful for my career.

So, don't fixate too much on coding. Maybe it won't even be a thing so much in the future? I don't know. Just make sure there are always plenty of opportunities to learn basic science and logic. My father did quite well on that front and he was never around. And maybe there's some benefit of not trying to guide them too much? I think it worked well for me.

prognastat
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Re: Coding for Kids

Post by prognastat » Fri Jul 12, 2019 2:42 pm

I definitely agree that making it explorational with tangible results is important. I started with simple HTML from a science magazine's tutorial when I was 8 or so and it was mostly the excitement to see a visual result of my work that kept me going on it. Due to this I would actually disagree with the Excel/Speadsheet "coding" as even now that's boring to me and would no doubt have turned me off of the whole thing as a child. It can be a very useful skill in the workplace, but I didn't start doing any of that until much later and just for the results never because I enjoyed doing it.

Also keep in mind that most people simply don't enjoy coding. So while it's good to try to introduce her to new things I wouldn't push too hard(doing so might actually cause an opposite reaction) nor be too disappointed if she doesn't enjoy it. For example I work in a relatively large IT company and am still only one of the few with any programming knowledge at all.

Python is actually pretty old, but has gained popularity more recently. It's pretty solid and due to its popularity there will be many resources, but really at the moment the language doesn't matter as much as being able to achieve tangible results pretty easily. If she is in to video games then something like game maker might be good because it'll build on an existing interest. It could also be getting in to modding games that could be fun. If she is more of a creative type maybe help her build her own simple webpage or eventually blog to catalog her interest in hair styling or a different hobby she has.

https://automatetheboringstuff.com/

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Lillailler
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Re: Coding for Kids

Post by Lillailler » Fri Jul 12, 2019 3:10 pm

I want to second the suggestion for "scratch", above. Scratch comes out of MIT and is well thought out, so it is easy to use, quite powerful, and does not plant bad habits.

horsewoman
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Re: Coding for Kids

Post by horsewoman » Fri Jul 12, 2019 6:00 pm

Thanks for you suggestions! I'll check them out.

Just to be clear, I'd never push / force her into anything. But here in Germany IT is mostly thought of as "something for boys". I believe by simply creating an environment to explore I can normalize this stuff for her. My dad always made sure I had access to computers from early childhood (C64 for example - I did even write some code on that! That was BASIC, wasn't it?).

You would not belive how many women (and guys, too) are in awe of my skills simply because I'm able to install windows on a computer, or troubleshoot most common PC problems. I credit my dad with never making a great deal out of "a girl interested in computers" but instead encouraging me (and buying/building computers!). I'd like to pass that along to my daughter.

I'll not be disappointed if she's not interested in coding, but I'd like to give her the opportunity to learn about it.

I know this "normalizing" worked for speaking English. I exposed her (without any pressure) to it from the start, and by now she watches her favorite cartoons in English. She is also 2 years ahead of her class mates.

Edited to add: no, it was DOS on the C64, I just remembered!

prognastat
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Re: Coding for Kids

Post by prognastat » Fri Jul 12, 2019 6:20 pm

Exposing your kids to new things is almost always a good thing and as long as it's done without pressure it can only be complimentary so definitely think it's good that you are thinking about these things.

Just in relation to the "something for boys". I would disagree and say it's something for weird people. Even most boys aren't thrilled by it. As I mentioned I worked for an IT company and still most have never coded anything and aren't interested in doing so either and that is a group of mostly men who are relatively tech savvy. But programming is even more niche than stuff like building/troubleshooting computers/electronics. There's a reason why Adderall abuse is a thing among programmers. It's because it's not something that comes natural to most and even those that do are looking for "help" to sustain doing so for long sessions such as when crunching for a deadline.

Sclass
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Re: Coding for Kids

Post by Sclass » Fri Jul 12, 2019 11:53 pm

I third Scratch. I taught an 11 yo a couple of years ago how to...well teach herself how to code using scratch. For a developer this is a far more valuable skill to learn than just coding alone. Now the kid is 13 and can program multi threaded platformer games with her own sick and twisted horror themes in scratch. We were going to do Python next but she lost interest. What I do know is whatever language she needs to learn down the road, she’ll be able to self teach. They’re all kind of the same at the end of the day.

So I didn’t really know how to code scratch. I opened up a browser and figured out it had quite a bit of sophistication built in while relieving the child of having perfect syntax which friustrates a kid. We did a hello world then I showed her how to open the Tutorial 1a and follow the steps. Then go through tutorial 2. Then 3. Then how to open and “remix” other people’s Code. Let the child see what makes their favorite game tick.

She started writing her own interactive adventure games a month in. She’d ask an occasional question like how do I make it ask me a question the respond to a particular answer. Or, how do I make things repeat. Or how do I save new information. Or how do I make the program stop when it gets to the desired result. Or how to trigger an operation on an event. That my dear is programming.

The cool part wasn’t teaching how to code. It was teaching to teach yourself to code. How to read documentation. Go through tutorials. Dissect other projects. Modify other’s work. Hack existing work.

All this could be done in the Scratch environment. Get your 11 yo a login and do the tutorials. See where it goes from there.

my observation is everyone is self taught more or less by the time they are doing something substantial. I used to think I was an exception but then I looked up from my “terminal” and took a close look at my colleagues...at least the ones who were worth a damn. We all have an introduction early in the game but really, learning digital systems is done by a lot of self study and exploration into what other people have already done. So the best thing I could show a kid is the learning process.

Just saying this because I think there is way too much emphasis put on going being taught IT in a class environment. At least by outsiders. Look at all the silly STEM agenda in the public schools that is mostly laid down by misguided people who don’t even know what they’re trying to attain for the kids. Good developers may get introduced by a class, but their mastery is more a result of their own desire.

Scratch is a great jumping off point. The rest is really up to the student. If too much handholding is required they probably aren’t cut out for the pursuit.

Recently I asked this 13 yo I taught what she is coding now. She says nothing. She lost interest. She certainly learned how to code but perhaps it didn’t stick. No worries. It isn’t for everyone. At least my little protege will be able to code at some level even if it is something like writing VBA macros in excel as a banker.

horsewoman
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Re: Coding for Kids

Post by horsewoman » Sun Jul 14, 2019 4:01 am

So we downloaded Scratch last night and it was an instant hit :) Thanks again for your suggestions, this forum is such a great resource!

Quadalupe
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Re: Coding for Kids

Post by Quadalupe » Sun Jul 14, 2019 10:10 am

Great to hear! I hope she'll have a lot of fun cooking up nice programs. :-)

Sclass
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Re: Coding for Kids

Post by Sclass » Mon Jul 15, 2019 12:18 am

That’s great. All languages have their thing they’re good at. I guess that’s why people come up with them. Scratch is great for teaching. You can get down to learning critical programming concepts without getting bogged down by syntax.

The way it removes the burden of perfect syntax is ingenious. Really good for youngsters.

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