A recent Ted Talk featuring the charismatic 6th grade programmer Thomas Suarez has shown that programming is a skill that can be learnt at any age. With the huge number of sites and products dedicated to programming for kids, there has never been a better time to get your class coding.
Statistics from the Survey of Graduate Enrollment and Degrees have shown that only 4.1% of master’s degrees awarded in 2009 were in Mathematics and Computer Science. This is concerning as many of today’s fastest growing professions are in related disciplines. With this need for programmers growing everyday, here are seven sites that focus on programming for kids and will encourage, nurture and ignite the coding spark for your students.
Aimed at students aged 8-16 years old, Scratch is one of the best ways to take the first leap into programming. Developed by the MIT Media Lab, Scratch is a visual programming language. It allows students to build interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art. This visual approach to programming is the perfect way to teach students the fundamental concepts behind programming and software development. Scratch is free to download and runs on Mac, Windows and Linux.
Alice is a 3D programming environment that allows students create animations, interactive games, or videos to share on the web. The application will help students understand key principles such as object orientated programming and 3D modelling. Programs are created by drag and dropping graphic tiles. Each instruction corresponds to standard statements in a programming language, such as Java, C++, and C#. Alice is free to download and runs on Mac and Windows.
Treehouse is one of the most popular sites on the web for learning programming. Quite a revolutionary company in their own right, Treehouse takes an approach to coding that encourages fun, progress and real results. With courses on building websites, apps and a huge number of programming languages, there is a massive amount of content available. The site is even used by companies like Twitter, AOL and Square to train their own engineers! Treehouse also offers a free month trial so you can make sure the course suits your kids before paying anything at all.
4. Hackety Hack
Taking programming for kids to the next level, Hackety Hack teaches the absolute basics of the Ruby programming language. Ruby is the foundation of many desktop and web applications such as Twitter, Shopify and Hulu and is a great starting point for command based programming. Students use an integrated text editor to begin building ruby apps and by the end will be comfortable with basic programming syntax. Hackety Hack is an open source application that runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems.
Udemy is a site offering training and material on pretty much every topic under the sun. With free courses all the way up to programs costing thousands of dollars, the quality can be extremely high. A number of great courses have been created to focus on programming for kids, but none are better than those created by Game-maker John Bura. With two reasonably priced courses, Kids Coding – Beginner HTML and Kids Coding – Beginners CSS there are few programs that offer this level of quality and engagement.
Run by Stanford University, Openclassroom gives students free access to Computer Science lectures. Lectures cover a wide variety of programming curriculum and generic computer skills. Videos are well structured and go from quite basic lessons to detailed science, syntax and structures. The lecture format is a great way for students to engage visually as well as introducing them to tertiary styles of teaching and learning.
iPad apps would have to be some of the hottest programs being developed right now. Codea helps make the iPad development process and programming for kids a lot easier. It is a great starting point for students interested in making apps and lets students program directly on the device. Students can create games, simulations and just about any visual idea they have. Like all apps, Codea is available from iTunes and is only $7.99.
Do you think programming is a skill that should be taught in school? Or do you think it should stay as a hobby for enthusiastic students? Share you thoughts in the comments.
[Note: Post has been updated to 8 sites to include Udemy]
Image courstesy of Flickr, Jim Sneddon