Happy New Year to you all!!
I hope you had a great Christmas holiday. We had a lovely time, though it did seem to be very tech laden 2 weeks despite my best efforts to get us all away from computers and gadgets.
My children are really starting to get in to technology now. My youngest son (age 6) got Minecraft for Christmas and so we spent a lot of time trying to work out what was going on!? My husband received 2 Raspberry Pis (bad present co-ordination!) – maybe these offered too much of a busman’s holiday for him because he spent the entire week hiding from the PC and doing Sudoko puzzles…
Anyway, a post Christmas lunch discussion with the in-laws got me thinking about how I really feel about the relationship between my children and technology. So apologies that this post doesn’t directly relate to remote working but I hope some of you find it useful and/or interesting.
My children don’t have a huge amount of technical kit of their own, they share a Wii and the two girls (aged 9 and 11) have an iPod touch each. They all have access to a PC, though we monitor use. They also see laptops, iPads and Macs in action (i.e. they can have a go but don’t own them).
My two girls tend to use their iPods to play games, make movies and listen to music. It is purely a leisure tool, and while they are a lot more computer savvy than my parents they aren’t doing anything ground breaking with their kit. I’d like my children to be rounded individuals who are lucky enough to experience lots of different aspects of life. Although they aren’t very outdoorsy they are pretty in to sport (dance, swimming, tae-kwondo), reading, art, playing, and music. However technology is an important part of life these days so there is no point in running away from it. Both my husband and I work in a tech world and I’d like my children to have good technical skills – these will help them whatever career they choose.
So basically I’d like to my children to use the time they spend on technical devices in a more productive way. Time to move on from Angry birds and in to a good understanding of how technology and computer programming works.Last year my oldest started looking at Scratch. Created by MIT it allows children (or adults) to create interactive stories, games, and animations and share them. It does this through teaching the basics of object orientated programming – so children start to learn the concepts behind software. It’s a great tool.
Over Christmas I also stumbled upon Learn an hour of code: “a non-profit dedicated to expanding participation in computer science education by making it available in more schools, and increasing participation by women and underrepresented students of color“. Over a week in December last year they tried to encourage everyone in the US, from children to OAPs, to spend an hour coding. The site offers some amazing resources including links to a whole set of hour-long tutorials. My children loved the games on Tynker.com. There are also great tutorials available using Light-bot and API Inventor.
I thought it might be useful if I listed some of the other tools we’ve tried out recently or have on our to-do list. I’d also like to mention some great initiatives that have sprung up looking at getting children into programming and beyond.
Kids programming tools
I discovered quite a lot a few of these tools while at the Mozilla Festival last year, here’s a post I wrote about education at MozFest.
- Scratch: As mentioned before, a great starter tool with some really good tutorials.
- Chrunchzilla: Has tools for younger kids and teenagers, helps by offering interactive tutorials where kids and adults can play with code, experiment, build, and learn.
- Robotmind: By programming a robot, students learn about logic, computer science and robotics.
- Minecraft.edu: Site looking at how Minecraft can be used in schools.
- Mozilla tools including Thimble (helps you write html), Xray Goggles (grab tool that allows you to hide elements of a web page) and Popcorn Maker (allows editing of video). Hackosaurus has lots of ideas on how to use the tools.
- Isla: a programming language for children, by Marie Rose Cook, beginner-friendly.
- Squeakland eToys: An educational tool for teaching children powerful ideas in compelling ways.
- Waterbear: Based on Scratch but for a variety of different programming languages.
- Ruby for kids: As it says – a way for kids to learn Ruby!
- Microsoft Small basic: Some of the examples are a bit complex but there is a nice curriculum to follow if needed
Wikipedia has a list of programming languages simple enough to be used by children – I haven’t tried any of these yet…
Kids programming initiatives
Here are some other code for kids initiatives (quite a few of these ideas came from a discussion that took place on the OKFN discuss list related to gender bias in technology and open data for kids):
- Make Things Do Stuff: The Mozilla campaign and website aimed at mobilising the next generation of digital makers through kid-friendly events and actions.
- TechEU: A site that looks at all the learn-to-code initiatives and other noteworthy computer programming education projects across Europe.
- Code Club: A nationwide (UK) network of free volunteer-led after-school coding clubs for children aged 9-11 – unfortunately none near me
- Prewired: Recently launched club for kids in Edinburgh, inspired by the Young Rewired State Festival of Code.
- Logo: Foundation to encourage children’s computer skills, US based.
- Young Rewired State: An independent global network of kids aged 18 and under who have taught themselves to program computers, not really for beginners.
- Jugend Hackt: Aspin-off of Young Rewired State, organized by OKF Germany – in German.
- Hackidemia: A global network that designs workshops and kits enabling kids to use curiosity, play, and empathy to solve global challenges. It tends to be more hardware and is beginner-friendly.
- Hive Learning Network: A New York based learning lab that engages youth around innovation, digital media and web-making – lots of projects and resources.
- CoderDojo: The open source, volunteer led, global movement of free coding clubs for young people. Utilises dojos as a location.
- Dwengo: Spin-off of a student group, focuses on promoting learning (adults and children) about microcontrollers / robots.
- Forum voor Informaticawetenschappen a platform in Flanders started by (mostly) teachers wanting to improve the level of IT-education at school – in Flemish.
So have you got any ideas you could add?