Coding for Kids?

Discussion in 'Computers' started by thehutchies, Feb 2, 2013.

  1. thehutchies

    thehutchies Funster

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    It's about time our 12 and 9 year old kids started to understand that computers aren't just for playing games.

    We tried KODU but it seems to be just about creating fairly crappy games from an XBox controller.

    Now we have started with CodeAcademy but have come to this screen:

    http://www.codecademy.com/tracks

    Ruby? Python? HTML? JQuery?
    I dunno...

    Any recommendations?
    We will even use the old-tech printed page if there's a good system we can use :thumb:
     
  2. welshbois

    welshbois Read Only Funster

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    Can't help you with the programming, however, these are becoming really popular. Could be worth a look.

    http://www.technocamps.com/

    Glyn
     
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  3. thehutchies

    thehutchies Funster

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    Excellent!

    The kids already go to science days at Techniquest Glyndwr when we are local.

    I'll send Technocamps an email and see what they can do for the home ed. crowd.

    Many thanks :thumb:
     
  4. hilldweller

    hilldweller Funster Life Member

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    They're only kids, let them be kids.

    There's not a whole lot of future in computer programming for UK kids. The Indians have a million clever cheap coders on offer.

    If you want them to earn a living then it's a long hard slog needing a seriously good degree from a seriously good Uni. That means for now, just plain academic hard work in the essentials.
     
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  5. GJH

    GJH Funster Life Member

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    My IT background makes me shudder :BigGrin: Chucking somebody (of any age) into the deep end of coding without understanding what they are doing is akin to letting them use a calculator without first understanding any maths.

    Brian is right, plain academic hard work in the essentials.
     
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  6. GJH

    GJH Funster Life Member

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    OT but nice to see you posting again Glyn :Smile:
     
  7. thehutchies

    thehutchies Funster

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    Fer Dawkins' sake, Brian, you don't want them to do computer coding, B/W processing, thatching, dry stone wall building, fletching...

    http://www.motorhomefun.co.uk/cameras/41048-leica-v-lux-30-a-3.html#post504156

    "The Indians have a million clever cheap ***coders*** on offer."

    And a million cheap mathematicians, quantum physicists, toilet cleaners, tree surgeons, professional skateboarders, surgeons, ladyboys, sculptors, taxi drivers and elephant trainers.

    The last one might be a fairly specialised market over here but I'd rather the kids concentrated on studying something they are interested in, rather than giving in to a life on the dole because there might one day be competition. :Smile:
     
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  8. thehutchies

    thehutchies Funster

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    I was thinking more of a toe in the water rather than chucking into the deep end :BigGrin:

    Today they learned:

    alert("I am trapped in a computer. Aaaaaaaaaaaaargh")

    and enjoyed it :Laughing:

    We all have to start somewhere...
     
  9. Taran_Las

    Taran_Las Funster

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    As a dyed in the wool assembler man I used to start junior staff off with Rexx. I know this is probably not a "today" solution but it did give them a foundation. If they want to go further then C++ with additional HTML is probably as good as any in today's world. A grounding is useful even if they don't want to take it further. I apologise if my suggestions are out of date but I am a dinosaur.
     
  10. Gromett

    Gromett Funster

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    Got to disagree with you there. It is more than possible to get into programming without a uni degree. Most of the best programmers I know have started with a passion as kids and gone on from there.
    The Indian programmers are either cheap OR good. They are not both. A lot of companies are starting to realise that outsourcing to India and Russia was a mistake.

    Sorry I disagree as well. Starting with programming at an early age for fun teaches kids logical thinking. They will go out and learn any maths they need as they go along.

    There are loads of simple programming environments around now.
    Python seems to be the one that a lot of youngsters seem to be learning on.

    If I was advising someone on how to get into programming now.
    I would say choose on of the high level languages such as python and put together a few simple programs.

    As they advanced I would then suggest they look at some of the major open source projects and see if there is anything they can add to it.

    One of my young friends who I helped get started now works for a design house doing Drupal development in PHP. He got the job over candidates who had CS degrees due to the fact he had real world experience and a personal passion for programming. He got that job aged 19 and doesn't have a load of Student debt. He is now 22 and learning C++ off his own back.

    The most important thing needed to get into programming as a career path is a passion for the subject. They can only get this through being exposed (preferably at a young age)

    I wouldn't make it formal training just a fun hobby and if it leads to a passion and a career good. If not hopefully some of the core skills such as logical thinking, breaking down problems into managable chunks and a deeper understanding of what computers do under the bonnet. I would consider this a valuable move for any youngster.

    Google for instance don't require a degree for a developers position. But they do put you through an extensive test when applying.

    If they are interested in web development, PHP is a simple enough language to learn, through this they could get good exposure to SQL, Ajax and application level security. Once they get to a level where they can put together basic website applications they should get a couple of books on design patterns and security. These combined with SQL will make them commercially viable and a lot of companies would be happy to employ them without a degree.

    Once you have your first developers job, getting future jobs becomes much easier and they can teach themselves new languages and technologies off their own back. Submit patches and modules to open source projects. This will show practical real world knowledge in that field and will be good on a CV.

    Anyway I am waffling. My main point is programming can start as a hobby and become a career without going onto 6th form or university. Although I would say an A level in maths would be a good help.
     
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  11. Gromett

    Gromett Funster

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    PS: Even if your kids go onto do a degree in programming the early exposure and passion for the subject will make doing the degree so much easier. Giving them a headstart won't hurt :thumb:
     
  12. sdc77

    sdc77 Funster

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  13. Gromett

    Gromett Funster

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    Last edited: Feb 3, 2013
  14. GJH

    GJH Funster Life Member

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    I didn't suggest that one needs a degree to understand programming. At the same time, programming is more that just chucking a few macros together and hoping they work (which is what some software houses have seemed to do for several years now).

    When we had building work at home last year we need the services of bricklayers, joiners, roofers, plasterer, plumber and electrician. Each of those is a valuable and essential skill in its own right but none of them provide the training necessary to create the architectural drawings from which to work and neither do they teach the skills necessary to analyse and document the brief of everything required and how the requirements fit together, from which the architect works.

    It's all very well starting with a pile of raw materials but, without the understanding of how, why and to what purpose they are to be combined, the result may be far from what is required and may not work at all.
     
  15. magicsurfbus

    magicsurfbus Funster

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    Hi thehutchies,

    I've been teaching high school ICT since the early 80s when 'coding' (we used to call it programming) was also cool. However, it was cool then because we didn't have a software industry and everybody had to write their own programmes to make their shiny new home computers do anything. By coincidence this was the time when a certain Michael Gove was at private school, along with a selection of teenage computer geeks hacking away at ZX Spectrums and Amstrads in their bedrooms, who went on to establish our computer gaming industry. The gaming industry is now huge in a sense that most people of my generation don't fully appreciate. When a blockbuster movie is released these days, not only will it feature a lot of computer-generated effects, but the sales of related computer games will often bring in more revenue than the film itself. Some Hollywood films actually started out as games titles. The upshot of this is that the CGI and Gaming industries are now major players in media and entertainment - you'll notice they even have their own BAFTAs now.

    The 80's teen geeks now have the ear of Gove, and have persuaded him that coding and computer science is more important than existing computer courses that are little more than tedious box-ticking skill audits for Microsoft Office. As much as I detest Gove and despair at his policies, I do actually agree that it's time to kick MS Office into touch, let the other subjects mess around with Word (yawn) and bloody bleeding Powerpoint, and make computing course more about computing, but I also think they should use more multimedia (video, audio, graphics, animation, web design) too. Anyway, enough of the history - back to your original query.

    I would suggest downloading Scratch from http://scratch.mit.edu if you haven't already done so, and registering with the website for access to their huge collection of user-generated projects. It's all free and is very popular in schools, for good reason. It's a highly intuitive and entertaining system that works with kids of all ages, and you can do pretty much anything with it, ranging from games, through animations, to robotics projects. In my experience there are precious few software applications that engage whole classes of kids, but this is definitely one of them.

    Ignore any pompous nonsense you hear about not letting kids learn to code before University because they get into 'bad habits' - utter b*ll*cks. We wouldn't have a gaming industry if it wasn't for kids experimenting with computers in their teens. It's like saying no-one should aspire to the Olympics until the age of 21.

    If your son is 12 (Y8 or below) he will be among the first to take the new-look 14-16 exams starting in September 2014, and Computer Science may be among them (depends on the school), so it'll do no harm to prepare him if he has any ambitions in that direction. These courses will probably be tested by end of course exams only, and not by coursework any more , so his year group are going to need all the help they can get. Most teachers can't remember a time before coursework and some will struggle to adapt. There will also be a shortage of Computer Science teachers, because most people with a Computing degree and any common sense won't touch teaching with a bargepole.

    Other areas you might look at are an understanding of how webpages are created using HTML and (possibly) CSS. I've heard good reports about Codacademy so that's worth fiddling with too. You can also get BBC BASIC emulators for PCs which can give an insight into how programming began for many in the 1980s.

    I would also encourage your children to investigate multimedia - Windows Movie Maker, Microsoft Photostory (free download), Animation packages like Monkey Jam (free), Graphics packages like Gimp (free), and Audio software like Audacity (free).

    I have a Raspberry Pi at home and haven't really had time to look at it properly, but bear in mind it'll need a keyboard, monitor, SD card and mouse as extras, and depending on the monitor might need an adapter to make the screen display work. The main purpose of the Raspberry Pi is to allow kids to fiddle with programming using open source software like Linux without wrecking the family's PC.

    My God I've written an essay here - hope it helps.
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2013
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  16. Chockswahay

    Chockswahay Funster

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    I think kidz take to HTML coding quite well. Within a very short period they get to put their results on line for all the world to see, this creates quite a 'feel good factor'.

    The subject matter is irrelevant, simply having web pages that work seems to be fun :Smile:
     
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  17. sedge

    sedge Funster

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    Hee hee, I was gonna reply last night and say, they are teaching this in schools so if you are Home Ed (which was said) - then you better be doing it too, which was one of the points Glyn made, I thought?

    Here's me, nearly 63 and still hacked off that I wasn't allowed to learn to type, apparently I was too intelligent. Education has tended to be far too blinkered in the past - sat with my doc one day as he typed a letter, wanted to shove him out the way. Unbearably slow. No paragraphs or punctuation and a million spelling errors. aaaargghh. And he's about 10 years younger than me and like everyone, has to type stuff.

    Graham don't understand what you mean about brickies particularly not being able to draw plans - my BiL is a time served brickie, this included the Civil Eng part so he knows exactly what RSJ joist lintel etc to put in to prevent the building collapsing and also TD so he can draw plans. I've known several brickies along the way who also could. And also the Quantity Surveying and Hell! - the ordinary surveying! - Grief ! how can eg a plumber get the main drainage in right if he doesn't do the levels before he starts?

    Or - are you saying they all used to, but can no longer do it?
     
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  18. GJH

    GJH Funster Life Member

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    I'm sure there are many people out there, Jenny, who are multi-skilled but not everybody is. If they are it is because they will have trained in various aspects not a single one - i.e. they have not just jumped into the deep end focusing on a single skill. It is one thing to put an RSJ or main drainage in the right place but somebody has to decide where the right place is beforehand.

    For instance, erecting a house with an east facing lounge when the client wants to enjoy the evening sun from their lounge will not meet requirements. It's the same with software. You can't design a system with certainty that it will do what is required unless you have understood those requirements, and simply knowing how to write programs doesn't provide people with those analysis and design skills.
     
  19. hilldweller

    hilldweller Funster Life Member

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    I may have misunderstood your intentions. OK so not a career move but still on a mighty rocky road these days.

    I've had the same thoughts in my head for my grandkids. I built them a tiny micro that let them flash LEDS. Got their attention for some minutes.

    The problem now is just what kids are used to. When I started with computer chips I hand assembled code on paper before burning an EPROM. I bought books with listings of games, but in those days Hangman was a sophisticated game. If it drew an ASCII image it was something special. Great way to learn, still got the books.

    But today, they are used to such sophistication, 3D cinema-real games, Facebook, that sort of thing. Anything you can teach them like "Hello World" is so insignificant. Can they get enthusiastic about that. The point is, from that to something comparable with trivial apps is light years away.

    This has sparked off a lively thread, hasn't it.

    Oh, and this week, I dismantled my once proud of 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 colour enlarger and scrapped it. A thing whose time has passed, bit like me.
     
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  20. Gromett

    Gromett Funster

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    I think I know what you are saying. However modern development environment that are aimed at kids are really really good.
    It is simple on the surface and within minutes kids can be placing a ball on the screen and moving it around. They have already learnt about cartesian coordinate system after a bit of playing. Within an hour they can have them bouncing round the screen and within the day can have collision detection so white balls burst red ones for example.

    By experimenting and playing they will learn what variables are, how to use lookup tables and indirectly they will learn about pointers. This is all about playing but they don't realise they are learning really important programming fundamentals.

    When/If they go to university and they are introduced to pointers and arrays they will instinctively understand it because they have a light going on moment, oh that's what I did in that bouncing ball game I wrote as a kid. When they are being taught matrices at school they will have a real world use for transformational matrices from when they were playing with 3D a bit later.

    I didn't see the point to matrices at school as we were taught them using the example of a milkman doing his rounds. It was a totally irrelevent example that didn't make any sense. It wasn't until I starting working at a software house working on a 3D game and had to learn all that maths from scratch the I wish I had listened more carefully in the 3rd year at school.

    By the way I learnt about inertia from writing one of my early games long before I learnt about it in physics class at school because of programming...

    If a kid shows even the vaguest interest in programming it should be encouraged as much as possible without forcing them.:thumb:

    You never know they may be the next Wozniak, Zuckerberg, Jobs, Gates, Dell or Ellison. (Who all dropped out of college or didn't go at all)


    Here is a quote from Bill Gates. (please note I am not a fan of him or Microsoft but he is an excellent programmer)

    These days you don't need to dumpster dive. We have a massive amount of OpenSource software that you can just look at and learn. A lot of this software has been written by the best brains on the planet when it comes to software.
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2013
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