Great Finds To Help Kids Learn
Instead of our kids just "consuming" games, they should be making them, learning and applying a host of skills and knowledge in the process (geometry, physics, algebra). Plus, games offer opportunities for exploration, intellectual risk-taking, and pure creative adventuring.
You asked us about ways to initiate computer programming in schools or at home, based on our two previous posts: Building Video Games-The New Summer Camp? and The Next Wave In Computer Science. We did some digging and the following are the names that came up most consistently. We'd love to hear your feedback on the programs or share others that we missed. The other good news is that these programs are free.
Links are highlighted and underlined:
Alice is a 3D programming environment for kids to be able to create an animation for telling a story, playing an interactive game, or a video to share on the web. Alice can be a teaching tool for introductory computing. It uses 3D graphics and a drag-and-drop interface to facilitate a more engaging, less frustrating first programming experience.
Scratch is a programming language from MIT that allows kids to make and share stories, animations, games, music, and art. "Scratch is designed to help young people (ages 8 and up) build on the tradition of Logo and LEGO/Logo, but takes advantage of new computational ideas to make it easier to get started with programming (lowering the floor) and extend the range of what kids can create and learn (raising the ceiling). As they create and share Scratch projects, young people learn important mathematical and computational ideas, while also learning to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively."
Squeak is a modern, open source, full-featured implementation of the powerful Smalltalk programming language and environment. Dr. Alan Kay , "Father of the Personal Computer" who coined the phrase "the best way to predict the future is to invent it" was one of the key scientific innovators who created and brought this initiative to fruition.
Etoys is a script-based environment to learn science and math by encouraging exploration and experimentation and uses the Smalltalk language.
Happy Nerds is an easy-to-use website that was developed for parents and educators for finding programming software for kids of all ages. We liked its simplicity and aggregation of new resources.
Published January 2010 The Daily Riff