54 Resources for Teachers Exploring Programming

Nick Grantham is an Australian educator living and working in Ireland. With a background in education, engineering and e-learning, he founded Fractus Learning to connect people with a shared passion for technology and how it can bring education to life.

One consistent request from our latest Fractus Learning Course, ‘Programming for Kids – How to Make Coding Fun, has been for a consolidated list of all the resources and tools we used. Well, rather than bundling it up as part of the training package, I thought it could be a bit more useful as an article that anyone can use and share.

Covering games, exercises, apps and more, the links below focus on giving educators the tools they need to direct, guide and inspire student to code. After speaking to a number of teachers, it was decided this was a much more practical focus than going into the details and syntax of specific languages.

Preparation

This section focuses on the resources and tools to use before a single line of code is written. These are offline and online resources that will help your students start to think like a programmer and begin to see the fun and creativity that coding can generate.

Mindset and Motivation

1. Computer Science Unplugged

Great site with a whole host of resources for coding without computers. Perfect for nurturing the logical mindset required for coding.

2. Computer Science Unplugged Classroom Resources

PDF copy of the twelve most-used Unplugged activities, with easy instructions for use in the classroom.

3. Minecraft

A brilliant game being used in classrooms around the world. Allows students to create and collaborate in digital worlds, building both an appreciation for programming as well as the problem solving skills required to code. For more ideas, check out Using Minecraft to Engage and Challenge Your Class.

4. MinecraftEdu

Minecraft discounts for education.

Sketching and Drawing

For a bit more background on using sketching and drawing in the classroom, take a look at a recent post, Creating ‘Paper Apps’ to Introduce Your Kids to App Development.

5. Tablet Sketchpad

Printable PDF tablet template that can be used by students to sketch app ideas and flow.

6. Phone Sketchpad

Printable PDF phone template.

7. Browser Sketchpad

Printable PDF web browser template.

8. POP

Very cool app that lets you turn sketched drawings into interactive apps on your phone.

9. Protosketch

Similar concept to POP, allowing you to take photos of sketches and create interactive app samples.

10. Launch

A more involved and complex prototyping tool, Launch is a better option for getting serious about trying app ideas.

 

Before the Code

Before launching a text-editor and getting knee-high in semi-colons, there are a number of design and logic exercises that you can work on with your students. This will make sure they don’t feel too out of their depth once coding starts and also show that there is more to programming than just learning a language.

Creating Mockups

11. Balsamiq

One of the the best (paid) mockup tools for both Windows and Mac.

12. Free Keynote and PowerPoint Mockup Templates

Template files for both PowerPoint and Keynote to allow students to create mockup programs using slides. A very simple, free and fun exercise.

13. Mockup Builder

Free online and desktop mockup creation tool.

14. wireframe.cc

Very clean and simple online mockup tool.

15. Moqups

Free online drag-n-drop mockup tool.

Programming Concepts with Spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are a surprisingly simple way to introduce mathematical and logical thinking to students. With basic formulas all fairly similar between the below applications, students will learn more than just calculations.

16. Microsoft Excel

I think we are all familiar with excel… Right?

17. Numbers for Mac

Apple’s spreadsheet application. Similar in most (functional) ways to Excel.

18. Google Drive (Sheets)

Google’s free online spreadsheet application. Great for collaboration and sharing.

Programming Languages

19. Python

20. Java

21. Ruby

22. Objective-C

23. HTML/CSS and Web

 

Getting Kids Set Up

Having the right tools is a huge part of making programming an enjoyable experience. Although any browser or text-editor can be used for programming, the below are the ones we recommend to make things as simple and standard as possible.

Development Browsers

24. Chrome

Google’s web browser with in-built development tools.

25. Firefox

Mozilla’s web browser with in-built development tools.

Text Editors

26. Notepad++ (Windows)

Neat, clean and lightweight text-editor for windows. Very popular within coding communities.

27. Sublime Text (Mac)

Brilliantly expandable and slick text-editor for Mac.

28. Kate (Linux)

One of the most popular of many text-editor options on Linux.

 

Where to Start

Unless you are an expert programmer yourself, you are going to need some help getting your kids started. With so many great options online and kids’ natural curiosity and creativity, a huge part of getting kids coding is just being able to point them in the right direction.

Resources for Kids Programming

29. Code.org

Code.org is a non-profit organisation that provides loads of great resources and tutorials to help kids get into coding.

30. Codecademy

One of the best free resources available, Codecademy has many interactive tutorials on a number of different programming languages.

31. Codeschool

More selections of online lessons in coding and programming.

32. Treehouse

Although Treehouse does charge for their courses, they do have some of the best material available.

Languages Specifically for Kids

33. Scratch

One of the best (if not the best) visual programming languages for kids.

34. Alice

Great way to get kids creating in 3D.

Apps/Games That Make Programming Fun

35. Cargo-Bot

Created using Codea, Cargo-Bot is a fun game that requires kids to builds short programs to stack cargo.

36. Lightbot

Create fun visual programs to move our little robot towards his goal.

37. Move the Turtle

Write short blocks of visual code (similar to Scratch) to navigate this little dude around his world.

Coding on the iPad

38. Tynker

Very visual and fun way to get kids coding on the iPad.

39. Hopscotch

Create animations and games using the familiar blocks of code concept.

40. Codea

A lot more involved, Codea is the best way to create ‘real’ programs on the iPad.

Building Apps

41. MIT App Inventor

The best way to get started building apps for Android.

42. Developing iOS Apps

Link to Apple’s iOS development resources. Definitely for more advanced kids.

Building 3D/2D Games – Unity

43. Unity

The industry standard for creating 3D games, Unity is still simple and visual enough for beginners to build some pretty cool stuff.

44. Unity for Education

Educations discounts and packages for Unity being used in schools and colleges.

 

Next Steps

Once your kids start to progress with their coding, they will hit walls (this is just what happens for all programmers). What is important is that they know where and how to search to solve their problems. Here are some the best places to start.

Online Communities and Forums

45. Stack Overflow

The holy grail of coding forums. If you have a problem, chances are it has been solved and documented on Stack Overflow.

46. Scratch Forum

Specific forum just for programmers using Scratch.

47. Python Forum

One of many language specific forums.

Getting Involved in Computer Clubs

48. CoderDojo

A rapidly spreading movement to start coding clubs around the world. Find one or start your own.

49. Codecademy After-school Programming

Codecademy sponsored coding clubs for schools.

50. Code Club World

Huge network of computer and coding clubs around the globe.

Coding Hardware – Raspberry Pi

51. Raspberry Pi

This affordable, credit-card sized computer is a great way to get kids started integrating their programs into hardware and robotics.

52. Pi Quick Start Guide

The official getting started guide for Raspberry Pi in PDF form.

53. Ten Awesome Raspberry Pi Projects

Just a taste of the amazing things you can make with a Pi.

Recommended Books

54. 8 Books to Get Kids Programming

 

Well, hopefully that list will get you on the way to teaching coding with confidence. And, if your school is looking to put code into the classroom, or just looking at different PD options, make sure to check out our Fractus Learning Courses or some of our latest articles on programming for kids.

 

What resources have you found useful when teaching your kids to code? Let us know your best links in the comments below.

 

Feature image courtesy of Flickr, Waag Society under Creative Commons.