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Coderdojo Inspires Coding In Kids As Young As Seven 40

Posted by Soulskill
from the learn-programming-through-single-combat dept.
An anonymous reader writes "With kids growing up in an increasingly digital world, it's alarming that many of them have no idea how the devices that power their lives actually work. So three cheers for Coderdojo — a worldwide group of volunteers teaching programming and web design to children aged seven and up. From the article: 'Coderdojo's format is open and inclusive. Participants can use the operating system and programming tools of their choice. There is no set curriculum and the only rule is: "Above all: be cool." More rigid approaches, he suggests, can often stifle learners' enthusiasm: "A lot of coding tuition aimed at young people tends to revolve around games," he said. "But that can disengage some young people. Many of them, particularly girls, just aren't interested in gaming. "On the other hand, doing something like developing a web site shows them that they can do things they might not have realized they were able to and combines artistic and design skills with an understanding of why things are built in a certain way."'"
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Coderdojo Inspires Coding In Kids As Young As Seven

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Anyone wanting to start teaching kids how to program can start with a nice free and open project I am involved in called:
    http://turtleacademy.com

    So if anyone want a simple way to start his kids on programming, just visit this site

    Ofer

    • by rioki (1328185)
      Nice idea, but I have never liked the concept of a turtle. It is frustrating and not very rewarding. Lego Mind Storms on the other hand...
      • not to mention the javascript centering forces the turtle out of view as soon a you try to enter something in the terminal

  • by Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @06:16PM (#42197119)

    20 Goto 10

    *Sob* Precious memories I hope all kids will have....

    • Absolutely, that was the first thing my mom showed me on the Commodore 64 almost 30 years ago, everything changed that day.

      FIve years later I had a simple CarisWorks database for my hockey cards and comic books, five years after that I was in college getting excited about polymorphism and multi-threading.

      I think for the right kid getting their hands on this stuff early changes how they think about and use technology and may lead to some unique career options in the future.

    • I started with the strange "turtle".
    • by istartedi (132515)

      Even more powerful than that was FOR X=...

      Suddenly, algebra made sense. This happened to me at the perfect time too, right when they were introducing us to algebra. I wonder if I would have done as well without it. The leap from concrete numbers with values to variables that could be anything, that leap of abstraction was facilitated greatly.

  • by kilodelta (843627) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @06:26PM (#42197275) Homepage
    Was to participate in program reviews in high schools all over the State of Rhode Island. I recall one classroom where they were learning the Office suite. On the particular day we were there the teacher had them doing a payroll spreadsheet, but they had to look up the tax rates on a cheat sheet.

    I talked with the teacher and asked if they had any intention of teaching the kids about VBA and explained what VBA was and how it is present in every Microsoft Office application and lets you do fun things like for instance, calculate the tax, etc. The teacher looked at me with a straight face and said "Well, you need advanced math to program a computer!". I thanked her for her time.

    On my review I made note of the conversation and how at the most, one might need maybe one semester of Algebra 1 but if they understood basic mathematical equations they could program.

    What I heard is that my comment struck a warning bell in the school. They'd never had someone with an I.T. background review a program before. So it just flew under the radar until I made mention in the official report.
    • by Octorian (14086)

      Yet this myth is so pervasive, that it feels like anyone who isn't the school's top math wiz is outright discouraged from even considering computer programming.

      • by kilodelta (843627)
        You got that right! And look - you also should know number systems. Decimal is fine but binary is simpler, and hex a bit more complex but follows the same rules as decimal. It's just 16 symbols versus 10.
        • by bolthole (122186)

          Well, using hex can be a huge mental barrier for some.

          But more importantly... only a teenie tiny fraction of modern programming needs it. So its in the same category of "advanced math"

          • by kilodelta (843627)
            Agreed - but hex is good for representing larger numbers in fewer characters. And like I said, it works the same rules as decimal, you just have to think base 16 instead of base 10.
            • you just have to think base 16 instead of base 10.

              And you wonder why programmers are considered nerds by all the cool kids?

            • I think the fewer characters than base 10 thing is only a secondary benefit at best. The real attraction is that it aligns well with base 2, and takes much fewer characters than base 2. You can look at 0x00080000 and know that the fourth bit of the second word is on, that's a lot harder to do when you're looking at 524288.

            • by rioki (1328185)
              I program some low level C and need hex numbers regularly. I also do some web stuff for kicks and have NEVER needed hex number there. Any "normal" programming that students or teachers will do will never ever need one single hex number. Most modern languages are so high level, that you seldom see these low level concepts such as how is a number represented in memory. Do you even know how your java script engines does it? Do you need to care?
          • > using hex can be a huge mental barrier for some.

            While true, hexidecimal (hex) can also teach constant-bit-decoding / variable-bit-decoding and about permutations / combinations! The _interesting_ bit is how SIMILAR the code is.

            As we all know:

            Decimal numbers go: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, ... 19, 20, 21, ... 99, 100, 101, ...

            Hex numbers go: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, A, B, C, D, E, F, 10, 11, 12, ... 19, 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D, 1E, 1F, 20, ... FF, 100, 101, ...

            To convert a hex number to decim

      • And yet any kid can begin to learn programming using LOGO.
  • Games (Score:4, Informative)

    by Gripp (1969738) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @06:53PM (#42197719)
    IMO games are the key. I know I learned most of what I know because of games.

    Either trying to hack online games or dicking around with configs and custom content on PC games, I was learning. Trying to write macros to automate mundane gaming tasks. I was learning.

    Also, I know every programmer out there will want to bash my face in for this, but excel is also very good to learn from. And a lot of games stand to gain from doing a bit of heavy analysis, or at least tracking, in excel. You learn how to deal with IF and ELSE statements, arrays, tables, lookup, AND/OR logic, strings concatenation and variables. And the framework for doing so in excel is not nearly as intimidating. Most non-programmers can make handy things in excel, that if you broke all the cell into variables and functions into code, would look a whole like a real program, they just don't know it.

    At some point during all of this I got curious about "Real" programming and kept looking at C. And while I never fully learned C to a usable level I learned about pointers and memory allocation/addresses/pointers/cleanup/etc. At some point I wanted to get into linux since it seemed more programming friendly. I choose gentoo by pure coincidence, and from bootstrap+compile kernal I learned even more.

    All because of games. But the problem becomes that over time it has become harder and harder to hack games; both web and PC based. So many measures in place to stop people from doing it, and even threats of bans. I feel like this is bad for our future. Like the one thing games stood to give to society is diminished by pettiness.
    • IMO games are the key. I know I learned most of what I know because of games.

      I disagree, but that's not to say I agree with the philosophy of the Coderdojo guys. The problem with games as motivation is that it is an attempt to motivate by topic rather than process.

      Learning is an inherently rewarding process -- it is a pure form of mental stimulation. If the teaching is effective, it generates flow and the process becomes self-motivating... but to achieve this the process needs to have a low cognitive load and each step must be inherently meaningful.

      Games, however, are complex beas

      • by Gripp (1969738)
        Hmm. I think you missed my thought process. I am talking about how to motivate kids into wanting to learn about computers/programming. Not learning programming outright via games, or worse teaching people HOW to program games. I think a programming game would never be fun enough to honestly captivate a kid. They really aren't much better than math games... And trying to get kids to program their own games would only lead to confusion and frustration, and likely turn them off from programming.

        And no o
        • A pre-existing game is an enormous black-box, and you're thrusting kids into a whole world of complexity. You need to be really motivated by the end-goal to push through that. You were, most aren't. I remember trying to motivate myself to learn Quake modding. I failed. It was, in the end, simply too complex, and I couldn't work on that level of abstraction. Starting simple means starting without games.
  • Because we had no choice, there were no pre-built executable back then.
  • Not to take anything away from the efforts of the volunteers, but I think the project's misnamed. According to Wiki a dojo is broadly "a formal training place for any of the Japanese do arts" or specifically " a formal gathering place for students of any Japanese martial arts style such as karate, judo."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dojo [wikipedia.org]

    The key word is "formal", which while not contradicting appears to contrast with the project's goal of fostering "open and inclusive" participation. The presence of older me

    • by dadioflex (854298)
      There are about a million websites, charities, government initiatives worldwide aiming to teach kids to program. It's the essence of what drove the production of the Raspberry Pi. Plug most of the obvious names into Google and you'll see they've already been taken - in fact several I looked for have been taken, lapsed, then acquired by spam or trojan operators. coderdojo isn't a bad name, though it doesn't really speak to teaching children, and is somewhat similar to codeacademy.
  • Like my subject says after reading this

    "A lot of coding tuition aimed at young people tends to revolve around games," he said. "But that can disengage some young people. Many of them, particularly girls, just aren't interested in gaming."

    Girl's not interested in gaming? Ok then try telling that to all the young and old women gamer's I've met in person and talked to on Ventrillo over the year's playing games such as World of Warcraft, Team Fortress Classic, and Counter-Strike 1.6 (and earlier) and Jedi Knigh

  • was a Kinsale Coderdojo session in the Lilly factory canteen. Here's a video we shot of the event http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MMODHilE4qk [youtube.com]
  • I first learned back in the BASIC days - things were simple and straightforward back then.

    I've always wondered how I'd have to do it today. Something like HTML? PHP? Java? Something like Alice or NTX? I've also wondered how I'd best go about it with my own kids.

    This article and organization seems to take on the challenge of teaching "7 years olds". The web site even has links on "opening your own dojo", and makes references to different skill levels and languages.

    It didn't say anything about curriculu

    • It didn't say anything about curriculum though. It's a great idea - and I'd like to do it, but how? Does it really define that? It's a great idea to teach kinder-gardeners calculus, but you'd have to provide some more specifics on how you intend on doing this for it to make sense to me...

      7

      "Oh no, you don't want a curriculum! A curriculum would stifle creativity!"

      So what do I do then?

      "Use your judgement as a teacher!"

      OK, but I'm not really a teacher yet -- you're supposed to be showing me how to become a teacher.

      "Ah, but I am. The first lesson is that there are no rules, only experience."

      Ah, I see. So what have I paid you over a grand for if you can't teach me anything?

      "My experience."

      Right. Your experience. But you won't tell me what your experience is.

      "Exactly. Because every teacher

  • "Coderdojo", must be an alias of the Super Adventure Club.

From Sharp minds come... pointed heads. -- Bryan Sparrowhawk

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