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Author Topic: Programming languages for kids? Suggestions on learning as well.  (Read 13283 times)
fowmow
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« on: August 02, 2007, 02:49:52 PM »

I'd like some suggestions for teaching children programming.

1.  What language do you recommend *and* why?

My thought is it should be something that can be easily done *without* a major IDE.  Honestly, Visual Basic comes to mind as the most usable IDE for children.  Otherwise, maybe something I can set up that they code in an ASCII editor and then compile via CLI (via the editor).

Some things to note:

1.  My children are extremely gifted, are all taking advanced classes in school and have a peculiar interest in all things technology-related.

2.  My oldest loves HTML and JavaScript and can type approximately 55 WPM.  She's 9.

3.  My second oldest loves HTML and designing artwork in TuxPaint.  She types at about 80 WPM.  She's 7.

4.  My third oldest has won more art contests than she is old.  She uses Photoshop.  She types at about 25 WPM.  She's 6.

5.  My 1 and half year old likes building things with legos.  I was worried she was a savant at first, but due to her illogical color schemes, doctors assure me she's just a talented little piggy.

So, I'm dealing with some relatively smart girls, but let me also say this.  They adore the fact that I can create 3D CG work, which I do in Maya and Blender, depending on what computer I'm at.  None of them can wrap their heads around either application.

They also love the stuff I'm able to do in JavaScript.  The oldest cannot wrap her head around most advanced topics though.  Once I go through the principles and steps with her, she grasps them, yet is unable to employ them again into a unique situation.

My family, beginning with me has some very serious mental disabilities and disorders.  I have a frontal lobe problem affecting both my rational judgment, logical and critical thinking, and short-term memory.  I see some of these signs in them, in that they sometimes grasp something in 10 seconds that takes me 10 hours.  At the same time I see them grasping things in 10 hours that takes me 10 seconds.  It all really depends on the scenario and the problem.

So, despite being a gifted family we have several issues to contend with.  Despite all of this though, I would like everyone's biased or unbiased opinions.  If you have anything positive or negative to add, I request that you provide detailed information either way.

As a last aside about myself.  I dabble in:
1.  PHP, Python, Perl (all MySQL-related)

2.  JavaScript, ECMAScript, VBScript

3. POV-Ray, Blender, Maya

4.  Inkscape, The GIMP, Artweaver, ArtRage

I've never been successful at relating the information I understand in these areas to them or my wife though.  They all say that I talk too fast and way above their ability to grasp what I'm saying.

I guess I'd make a great teacher for a genius crack-addict.   undecided
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Wordzilla
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« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2007, 03:19:09 PM »

Hi fowmow, we have some some programming languages for kids mentioned in the topics below, to get your kids started:


Kid's Programming Language

KPL - Kids Programming Language

The Best Introductory Language

Free Kids Programming Languge from Microsoft


Let us know how you like them. smiley
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fowmow
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« Reply #2 on: August 02, 2007, 03:41:52 PM »

Drat, sorry Wordzilla.  I specifically meant to mention that KPL aka Phogram was not an option.

It's a dumbed down version of BASIC in my opinion, and for that, I'd rather them use a good BASIC option such as QuickBasic or even Borland's implementation.  Or, since they could still get immersed in the code *if* they wanted to, Visual Basic.

So... any more suggestions?
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mouser
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« Reply #3 on: August 02, 2007, 05:22:14 PM »

my main suggestion is to help them choose a project that motivates them.
i learned to program by writing games, which is what motivated me.

if they are similarly motivated, you might want to check out GameMaker:
http://book.gamemaker.nl/ and http://www.yoyogames.com/make
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fowmow
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« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2007, 06:08:45 PM »

Too cool, mouser.  Thanks!  I had thought of this, because my two oldest are big time interested in games.  Not just playing them, but making them.  They've written down countless ideas on paper about board games they'd like to create.

I couldn't for the life of me think of one of these "game GUI designers" though.  Thanks again.

Any more suggestions on more traditional languages would still be appreciated.
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app103
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« Reply #5 on: August 02, 2007, 06:13:47 PM »

They teach Python to kids in school, here. That might be something you might like to look into.

But kids are not going to want to do the kind of MySQL related stuff that you do. No matter how bright they are, they are still kids. They would probably have more fun creating games than working with databases.

While on the topic of games, I would have to agree with mouser about Game Maker.

The free version is basic, maybe suitable for your 6 & 7 year old. The full version has it's own scripting language and some rather complex stuff can be made, and could possibly be perfect for your 9 year old. All 3 could even work together and make a group project out of creating games, dividing various tasks between themselves, based on their individual abilities.

Since your 9 year old already has some experience with Javascript, why not build on that?

She could probably have a lot of fun creating Yahoo Widgets. And if that isn't enough of a challenge, add a little XML and the Boxley kit and create some real applications. (Boxley is what they use at AOL to create GUI's for things like AIM)

Quote
The Boxely UI Toolkit uses XML and Javascript which empowers you to rapidly prototype and create applications without having to know complicated programming languages. If you already know how to create a web application using HTML and Javascript, then you're more than halfway there to creating a Boxely application!

Since they say you are too fast, maybe it would be a good idea to get a book that they can understand and let them teach themselves. (never underestimate the 'all by myself' factor...the ability to teach yourself is a valuable skill that will take you far in life, especially when it comes to programming)

If you do want to move into a major IDE, I would recommend Delphi. There is the free Turbo Delphi Explorer, so you won't have a major expense that could also be a risk if it doesn't pan out and be the right thing for them.

Delphi was the first language that clicked for me and made sense. It can be basic...or quite advanced. They won't outgrow it. It is Object Pascal, and Pascal was initially invented to teach programming. If you decide to go that route with them, Delphi.About.com can be a valuable resource to learn from, and they do have a beginners course there, complete with some fun projects.

There is also Leopard, which will allow them to learn programming by creating Weatherbug Widgets. Leopard was created just for kids, by a 14 year old kid, and is also used in many schools to introduce programming.

Part of the fun of programming is creating something fun and/or useful. The other part is being able to share it with others. If your kids can get involved with projects they can share with their friends...or something that could be useful to you, it will go far in encouraging them to continue working & learning. Something like Yahoo Widgets and Weatherbug is perfect for that because you'd be able to use the useful things they create.
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app103
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« Reply #6 on: August 02, 2007, 06:27:00 PM »

I forgot all about Hackity Hack for learning Ruby.  embarassed

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fowmow
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« Reply #7 on: August 02, 2007, 11:17:49 PM »

Thank you *very* much, app103.  I had my two oldest read both of your posts and they were literally floating by the time they finished.

The first thing they have planned is a collaborative project in Game Maker.  The oldest is keenly interested in having a go at their programming language.

I might give the Boxely toolkit a try myself to be honest!   smiley

And to be honest... I've always had an interest in Delphi and Pascal, but I thought the former was a baby of Borland and therefore not at all available.  Thanks for that link!

My oldest did express an interest in Widgets once I showed her what some of the current Widgets are capable of.  I couldn't pull her or the other one away from the Game Maker interface though, so it'll have to wait a while.

All in all, thank you for *all* of this information.  What wasn't immediately inspirational to them, was to me.  And my wife for some reason was interested in what "WeatherBug" referenced.  After perusing the Leopard 2.1 User Guide and seeing how minimalistic and simple the "language" is, she is interested in it.

This post was a winner with all of us it seems.  Well, the artist and the baby weren't interested, but there is still time to convert them.

Many, many thanks, again.
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« Reply #8 on: August 06, 2007, 09:52:40 PM »

I found another one rated at being suitable for grades K-5:  FMSLogo

Quote
A Brief History Of Logo
Seymour Papert designed Logo to be powerful enough for computer research, but simple enough so that it could be enjoyed by children. Papert used Logo to conduct Artificial Intelligence and Robotics research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. One of the robots that Logo controlled had a dome-shaped protective casing over its electronics that made it resemble a turtle. As personal computers became more affordable, the physical turtle was replaced by a virtual turtle on a computer screen. The virtual turtle was given a pen to help it fit into the familiar world of childhood learning. Drawing is already a natural part of childhood, but drawing with Logo is different than drawing with crayons. To draw with Logo, you must learn to think about drawing, enough so that you can teach a complete idiot (the turtle) how to draw.

You don't need the latest & greatest hardware/operating system. It's suitable for any PC that runs Windows 95 to XP...even a 10 year old slow hunk of junk will do well (I affectionately call those pc's 'snails' Kiss).

This sounds like it would be great for your 6 year old.

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Polkie
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« Reply #9 on: January 29, 2009, 02:39:13 AM »

Microsoft has brought out a version of basic called smallbasic,http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/devlabs/cc950524.aspx.

They claim it is for those who wish to learn to program, also aimed at kids.
Seems be interesting.
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kyrathaba
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« Reply #10 on: July 01, 2011, 07:33:50 PM »

Scratch, by MIT, purports to allow you to "create and share your own interactive stories, games, music and art...".  Looks interesting, and kid-friendly, and there appear to be LOTS of projects created by different users.
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« Reply #11 on: July 01, 2011, 07:45:38 PM »

Quote
“Invent Your Own Computer Games with Python” is a free book (as in, open source) and a free eBook (as in, no cost to download) that teaches you how to program in the Python programming language. Each chapter gives you the complete source code for a new game, and then teaches the programming concepts from the example.

“Invent with Python” was written to be understandable by kids as young as 10 to 12 years old, although it is great for anyone of any age who has never programmed before.

http://inventwithpython.com/
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« Reply #12 on: July 02, 2011, 03:32:19 AM »

If you hate the children, you could make them learn Perl... tongue
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« Reply #13 on: December 24, 2011, 01:45:06 AM »

http://www.squeakland.org/
http://armorgames.com/play/2205/light-bot
http://kogics.net/sf:kojo
http://fuse.microsoft.com/page/kodu
http://www.robomind.net/en/index.html
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« Reply #14 on: December 24, 2011, 01:52:46 AM »

I learned COBOL as my first language. #childabuse
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« Reply #15 on: December 24, 2011, 07:45:31 AM »

Seriously, I am not really a programmer although I aspired to be one back when I was a young lad with a bright future ahead of me, but unfortunately I still seem to have opinions about programmer-y things. So my recommendation of AutoIt3 should only be taken for what it's worth:

  • As a hobbyist language, it seems to be a natural evolution of what we used GW-BASIC for back in the 80's. Except of course if has "modern conveniences" like loops, functions, form designer etc. (but no OOP). Don't forget to install SCiTEforAutoIt3 and you will have a quite decent semi-IDE. It has tons of low level and high level features, making it great for "quick and dirty" programming like we use to do with old school BASIC.
  • Although it probably won't be any real programmer's primary programming language, you will always find uses for it and is used in many companies for their internal scripts. It is similar to AutoHotKey, but with a more humane syntax that looks very similar to VBA. Unlike VBA, however, it actually has a help file worthy of the name, with simple working examples you can load up in SciTE with the click of a button.
  • It's not object oriented, so as a first language, people can get some sense of the evolution of programming (that's a feature, I tell you.)
  • It has tons of built-in and user defined functions to play with (you can hopefully get a sense of how straightforward the documentation is from those links as well)
  • It has good Unicode support

Potential downsides if you see it that way:
  • It's primarily a scripting language, so you don't have a real debugger although SciTEforAutoIt3 does provide a sort of primitive debugging via inserting code.
  • No OOP, no cross-platform. However to me those would be more important I think in a second programming language than a first.
  • If a question needs to be asked in the AutoIt forums, forum rules need to be read especially carefully or you/they will get the banfinger. And you must not mention AutoHotkey there!

I have no affiliation with them other than being a satisfied user of their product (which is freeware.)
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panzer
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« Reply #16 on: December 31, 2011, 03:50:38 AM »

http://www.easycode.cat/English/index.htm
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« Reply #17 on: December 31, 2011, 04:28:55 AM »

Easy Code looks quite interesting.

Thanks for sharing the link!
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Carol Haynes
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« Reply #18 on: December 31, 2011, 05:11:00 AM »

What about BASIC - what I grew up on and it is what it was originally designed for!

Logo was also deliberately designed as a learning language for young children.
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mouser
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« Reply #19 on: December 31, 2011, 05:11:45 AM »

as for easycode, kids and assembly do not mix.
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