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29 April 2010 @ 07:37 pm
Ask the LJ Oracle: Teaching Programming to Kids  
Is anybody here:

1) Teaching your kids to program computers?
2) Teaching your kids comparable geeky skills (sysadmin stuff, electronic music/synthesizer, robotics)?
3) Interested in doing that kind of thing, but not sure how?

If so, would you be willing to discuss it with me, here and/or on the phone? Do you know of any good web sites, parent groups, magazines or other good resources for this stuff?

If your answer is "I'm in group 3, and I have no idea where to start", that would also be valuable to me. If you're in any of those categories, I'd love to talk to you.
Ethan Frantzef2p on April 30th, 2010 02:59 am (UTC)
I've tried to teach middle school kids programming in relation to Lego Mindstorms. I was using Lego's graphic programming tool. It's been quite a while.

The one trick that comes to mind was to try and get kids to think in a procedural way. We wrote 'programs' on index cards, then had a kid pretend to be the robot. The kid would follow the command on the top card. When he finished the command, he would go to the next card and follow that command. The idea was to make him do one thing at a time.

Something like:
Card 1: walk forward 4 steps
Card 2: Turn 90degress left
Card 3: walk forward till you get to the wall
Card 4: Turn right
and so on
Dannadevilfish on April 30th, 2010 03:11 am (UTC)
Anton's Lego computer is out on the coffee table again, so I feel I should respond for him, though you probably already know his interest. =) I'm also interested/have some experience, although more in teaching science than engineering.
Kathleen by daykarenbynight on April 30th, 2010 03:34 am (UTC)
I'm in group 3 with my niece and nephew. What I've done so far is buy SnapCircuits* for my 8-year-old nephew's birthday. I'm told that he's fond enough of them that he's been found playing with them under the covers in bed at night.

*) warning: great product, hideous web site.
astralagos on April 30th, 2010 05:09 am (UTC)
This is a running concern of mine, and I've got some design notes in the project box for a general purpose basic-like programming language partly intended for this. I also designed a lego-like prototype for something like this *years* ago - talked with Bruce Sherwood about it, but other shiny objects showed up. I could probably find the notes and pass them to you if you wanted, but it's only a small part of what I'm concerned about with education these days.
Noahangelbob on April 30th, 2010 05:38 am (UTC)
I'm definitely curious about the lego-like prototype, and I'd love to see any notes on it. I'm designing something roughly for this purpose right now, but I figure it's a much better idea to ask people what they're up to *before* letting them know what I think is a good solution :-)
Brick (DBA Brian)caramida on April 30th, 2010 11:06 am (UTC)
I've heard about, but am not yet familiar with, a programming language called Scratch, which I am led to believe lends itself rather well to teaching kids about programming.

I'd want to use it or something like it (and/or Lego Mindstorms) if/when I have children of my own.
satyrlovesong on April 30th, 2010 03:23 pm (UTC)
We've got a game/project that's basically a bunch of simple components and a book of instructions to make about 100 different simple designs.

H is also in an Industrial Tech class that is currently working on making solar panals that are effective enough to power small electronic devices. She also is now in charge of her own laptop upgrades, and has an interest in robotics.
sharon fisherslfisher on April 30th, 2010 03:44 pm (UTC)
group 3 here. 10 year old daughter.
rbusrbus on April 30th, 2010 04:25 pm (UTC)
i was a sciency-kinda kid (back in the stone knives and bear skins era) and always found the toys for such children (Erector Sets and Chemistry Sets and Microscopes) boring and stupid - and I find the Lego and other programming "toys" the same. My own kids didn't like them, either.

It may be we all needed some sort of "leader" in our play because, unless you're super-curious, self-directed exploration just don't work - you get to a place where you get stuck and just give up.

On the other hand, my kids pretty much taught themselves to read so they could play the Pokemon hand-helds and early MegaMan games. They also learned about problem solving and running patterns and decision making at the same time. So I know technology, if interesting, can be a great reason to learn.

I'd be interested in LJ discussion!
ext_233245 on April 30th, 2010 10:24 pm (UTC)
Yep, I teach programming etc
I am a computer programmer by training (and used to work as one). Now I home school and teach classes (including programming) at our local co-op. I have written a web page on Teaching Programming to Kids (http://www.squidoo.com/teach-computer-programming) and you can find lots of ideas there.
At present I am teaching my 4th grader Logo and I have just completed a class in Scratch and Alice for 7th-12 graders. They kids loved it and it wasn't difficult to learn. I have also taught my older kids Visual Basic.
My one son has been on a Lego team and he has taught himself all the Lego robotics programming. The same son has taught himself Html and Php and makes nice money building websites for people (he is in 9th grade)
Mandrewrubicantoto on May 1st, 2010 08:14 am (UTC)
I'm not a parent, so I may lack perspective on what counts for teaching kids to program, but the following are probably worth looking into

Lego (as everyone else suggests)
I've got a friend who co-coaches a Lego robotics team at a local middle school. It sounds like it's a pretty good way of trying to instill the basic concepts of programming (i.e., understand your APIs (possible robot moves), think in terms of your start state and your goal(s), and come up with an implementation that bridges the start/goal gap--then, if it didn't work, adjust.)

Alice (alice.org)
A drag and drop 3d animation environment?

The Little Schemer
I'm not sure if this book is *actually* kid-friendly, but it starts slow and the tone is very much like a kid's book (that tone may just be a cutesy affectation).

and there's always stuff like http://www.boingboing.net/2010/04/30/illustrated-guide-to.html for random geeky stuff.
(Anonymous) on May 4th, 2010 04:30 am (UTC)
from Debs
Somewhat more randomly, over ten years ago I sent my junior-high little sister to a computer camp, I think it might have been Java programming. I ~think~ it was iD Tech camp at Santa Clara.

She was by far the oldest kid... and the only girl :(
I was hoping she'd go into a non-traditional-girl/lucrative field... she went to an art school for college.