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Programming For Younger Kids ... And The Technically Challenged

Even young students – and challenged teachers – can make simple and not so simple programs and games.

Here are options that allow you and your students to learn about technology using equipment you already have on hand and without all the static allocate gorp() hieroglyphics.

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Teaching kids how to write computer programs

Marshall Brain looks at a number of different options for teaching kids about programming, from simple games (like Light Bot and Magic Pen) to working with robots and smart phone applications.

Scratch 2.0 overview

A video introduction produced by Paula Aguilera and the Scratch Team at the MIT Media Lab.

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A Number Guessing Game

Colleen Lewis has an extensive collection of YouTube videos on Scratch. This one shows how to get started with a simple guessing game. You can see how students can create something engaging by just assembling a few blocks.

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Scratch is an educational programming language and multimedia authoring tool developed by MIT. It can be used by pupils, teachers, and parents for a wide range of educational and entertainment projects.

Scratch is totally free and runs inside your web browser. Highly recommended by our webmaster.

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Scratch for Educators

As an educator, you can request a Scratch Teacher Account, which makes it easier to create accounts for groups of students and to manage your students' projects and comments.

Check out additional educator resources for this programming language used by all grade levels, K thru 12.

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Coding a LEGO Maze

Michelle has created a free, printable "Coding a LEGO Maze" activity that can grow with kids. No computers are used. Just paper and (optionally) a maze made of Lego blocks.

Children as young as 5 or 6 can attempt the easiest challenges, while the concepts introduced in the harder challenges would be at home in any introduction to programming class.

Using the goal of teaching a Lego character to navigate a maze, this project introduces programming concepts like for loops, while loops, if statements, and random number generators. No computers needed!

This project makes a great first step to introduce the Scratch programming language.

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CS Unplugged

CS Unplugged is a collection of free learning activities that teach Computer Science through engaging games and puzzles that use cards, string, crayons and lots of running around.

This site, created by the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, introduce students to Computational Thinking using concepts such as binary numbers, algorithms and data compression. Importantly, no computers or programming is required!

Separated from the distractions and technical details of having to use computers, students can concentrate on the concepts and get a better idea of how computers "work".

CS Unplugged trailer

Here's an overview of the CS Unplugged project, where you learn about computer concepts without touching a computer.

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Simple Kodu game tutorial

This video shows you how to crate a basic game using Kodu. By layering on simple commands, you can create complex games.

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Kodu game maker

Kodu lets kids create games on a PC and Xbox via a simple visual programming language. Kodu can be used to teach creativity, problem solving, storytelling, as well as programming. Where Alice can create animations and demonstrations as well as games, Kodu is focused on creating games. Great for young children, as well as older students and adults with no design or programming skills.

A Preview of Alice 3.0

Wanda Dann, Dennis Cosgrove and Caitlin Kelleher go into detail on the new version of Alice (3.0) and why you might want to use it in the classroom in this one hour video. Alice is a freely available teaching tool designed to be a student's first exposure to object-oriented programming. It allows students to learn fundamental programming concepts in the context of creating animated movies and simple video games.

Alice 2.0 has been very successful and enjoyed an adoption rate of 10% in US colleges and is expanding rapidly into high schools. In Alice, 3D objects (e.g., people, animals, and vehicles) populate a virtual world and students create a program to animate these objects.

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Alice - 3D programming

Think of Alice like a 3D animated version of Scratch. Alice is freely available 3D programming environment that makes it easy to create an animation for telling a story, playing an interactive game, or a video to share on the web. It allows students to learn fundamental programming concepts in the context of creating animated movies and simple video games.

Alice allows students to immediately see how their animation programs run, enabling them to easily understand the relationship between the programming statements and the behavior of objects in their animation. By manipulating the objects in their virtual world, students gain experience with all the programming constructs typically taught in an introductory programming course.

Project Idea

Have your students use Scratch or Alice to create a simple interactive presentation on a current class topic.

Sphero SPRK review

This review shows the Sphero SPRK Edition robot and SPRK app are a great introduction to robotics, coding, and STEM principles. The SPRK app lets kids give their robot orders with visual blocks representing code (like Spark) and later move on to Sphero's own C-based language called OVAL. Sphero's clear shell allows users to see the immediate connection between the program they created and how the guts of their Sphero work and react.

While not transparent, the Sphero 2.0 can use this same software and does not scratch as easily. You can control it using a less than $100 Android tablet.

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For teachers with little/no computer experience, any of these programs would be a good place to start. Check out the tutorials on YouTube and give it a go. You will be surprised how easy it can be.

MIT App Inventor Introduction

This video introduces MIT App Inventor, which allows anyone to create Android apps using just your cell phone or tablet and a web browser using a variant of Scratch.

The goal was to to create an easy to use platform to introduce older and younger students into programming.

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MIT App Inventor

This web site allows you to create fully functional applications for Android cell phones. It uses a variant of Scratch, the drag and drop programming language.

While App Inventor can be used to create some complex applications, it also allows simple phone applications to be created in under an hour.

Highly recommended by our webmaster.

The only problem with resources like these is that, all to quickly, the students are teaching the teacher.

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