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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Computer Programming Made Easy


I am not a computer programmer, nor do I play one in the classroom, but I have been trying to learn more about programming (or coding) in the hopes of exposing some of my computer students to it. I was intrigued by the Code.org group that is promoting computer programming in schools. Programming, even in its most simple form, is great for teaching problem-solving skills. I have found several great sources of programming activities and tutorials.

Computer by ytknick - A desktop computer.

Scratch

If you haven't heard of Scratch you're missing out! Scratch is a computer-programming language created by the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab. It is designed for 8-16 year olds but older students and adults may find it fun as well. If you are a parent or teacher, there are many resources available to you at the Scratch website such as the Getting Started Guide and the Scratch Curriculum Guide for educators. There is a whole educational section called ScratchEd.



I have used Scratch in my classes for several years now and it is interesting to see how students do with Scratch. The thinkers and creators really go nuts and fiddle, tweak and work hard. Those who like instant gratification can do it, but only with results that are basic, maybe with some glitches. It seems easy but definitely requires a lot of thinking and problem solving to make a good Scratch.

Coding Classes

Another resource I found recently is Code Avengers. This is a website with short coding lessons. It is easy to use and gives instant feedback and hints if needed. I worked through the HTML course and now am having my students try it out. I can link their accounts to me so I can see their progress. Another similar site I liked was Code Academy. I chose Code Avengers because of the easy way to link my students to me.

On an iPad

There are also a couple of iPad apps that teach simple coding. These are not on the same level as the previously mentioned resources, but are great thinking activities for young students. Daisy the Dino requires a little bit of reading and doesn't have many levels but is a fun way to integrate simple programming and problem solving. Kodable is an engaging app that doesn't require any reading at all. It starts simply but does get more advanced and again, involved those problem-solving skills we want students to practice.

Easy?

All of these resources are free, at least to get started. Some have the option to purchase additional content. The title of this post "Computer Programming Made Easy" is a bit tongue-in-cheek. Is coding easy? Well, yes and no. These resources make it easy to get started but the possibilities are unlimited.
Coding is a great way to challenge students and individualize--there is no end to what can be accomplished.

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