9 Fun Tools For Teaching Kids To Code - InformationWeek

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6/20/2016
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9 Fun Tools For Teaching Kids To Code

Young people should learn to code. Young people should also have fun. Here are nine systems, programs, and websites that will help you help them do both.
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(Image: Franky De Meyer/iStockphoto)

(Image: Franky De Meyer/iStockphoto)

In his keynote address at Apple's WWDC 2016, CEO Tim Cook said computer programming should be taught in schools as a language. This was his lead-in to the introduction of Swift Playgrounds, a game-based system for learning basic and advanced coding in Swift, Apple's language for development on all of its platforms.

Some wags have suggested that Cook is leading Apple to play the Long Game: Make sure that young people learn to code for Apple platforms and it becomes likely there will be a stream of applications available in the future. Whether or not you think Apple's new (and free) programming education system is a cynical ploy to get more developers, it's hard to argue against giving young people tools to help them learn programming.

If you want to encourage the next generation of programmers, or if you want to improve your own coding skills and know you'll do better if it's fun, we have you covered with our list of nine platforms and websites. There are different languages, from Swift to Ruby, different approaches, and different ways of having fun, but each one of these teaches programming skills in a fun and effective way.

When I learned to program, fun was the very last thing on our minds. When I first taught children to program, though, the curriculum started with building a simple game on an Apple II. Fun works as a motivator, and I'm encouraged by each of the options featured here.

Once you've reviewed the list, tell me which ones seem the best fit for someone you know -- and why. Do you see one here you'd like to try yourself? Let me know -- and share any fun-based programming teachers I've missed -- in the comments section below.

Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Editor at Dark Reading. In this role he focuses on product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he works on audio and video programming for Dark Reading and contributes to activities at Interop ITX, Black Hat, INsecurity, and ... View Full Bio

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alphaa10
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alphaa10,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/24/2016 | 12:59:51 AM
APPLE'S CYNICAL PLOY ?
As Curt Franklin observed, some may consider Apple's programming outreach to youth a cynical ploy to create a new generation of Apple developers.

Although Apple's effort may be self-serving, is is not entirely, since programming-- like science, other technology and math-- has been inappropriately minimized (if not ignored) by youth as they choose their careers.

The alternative to Apple-style outreach missions is to let schools in other countries train programmers, so IBM and Microsoft can import them under an H1B visa-- falsely claiming they can't find good help, these days.

Of course, the ability of IBM and Microsoft to pay H1B progammers less, and hire them on a provisional basis, must be considered the real motivation of those now whining to congress to boost the H1B quota.

While ever-patriotic IBM and Microsoft eagerly celebrate programming excellence as a public relations campaign, they have been less interested in doing the hard work of growing talent at the American grassroots. Both IBM and Microsoft have built development labs in India and China to capture native talent, and largely iginored their American market.
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
6/23/2016 | 10:46:03 PM
Re: A couple of other suggestions
Thanks for those suggestions, @Whoopty -- I'll have to check them out! I especially like the idea of SpaceChem: I'm in favor of any entertaining ways to help folks learn multiple things at once!
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
6/20/2016 | 11:49:51 AM
Swift Playgrounds

Curt,

Since you have asked ... I have a young person who keeps an iPad on her lap during trips: Me. :) I have just decided that I will add Swift Playgrounds to my entertainment options when it comes available this fall. Who knows? I might develop an iOS app and everything one day. 

-Susan 

 

Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
6/20/2016 | 10:59:36 AM
Teaching coding at schools
Curt, 

What a lovely article idea you had! I don't have any little ones around who could benefit from the list. However, I do believe kids need to be provided with the tools and knowledge they will need in the future, and coding is one of them.

I love Apple's idea. There is nothing wrong in taking the initiative to teach kids how to code, or provide the toold for doing it. Many technology companies in Finland have been doing this since at least 2014, and the first coding school open to the public was launched in January 2014.  

You will find this interesting: 

"Several Finnish IT sector companies are once again organising free coding schools aimed at children aged four to nine."  "The idea for the coding schools was born when Juha Paananen, from Reaktor, began to teach his daughter how to use a computer and how to code." 

And, coding will be a compulsory part of all teaching in Finnish comprehensive schools curriculums starting this fall. In December, teachers ended the MOOC coding for teachers courses. 

-Susan

 

 
Whoopty
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Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
6/20/2016 | 7:35:08 AM
A couple of other suggestions
Some good sources here - I'll certainly be giving a couple of these a trial run before introducing the young ones to them. However I do have another couple of suggestions which might be good for slightly older children.

Zachtronics' games SpaceChem and TIS-100 teach programming in different ways - one through making complex chemical compounds and the other through debugging a virtual system, but both have principles of programming at their core. 
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