Bringing coding to the whole family

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learning-to-codeThe last few years have seen educationalists from around the world place heightened awareness onto the importance of computer programming.  Policy makers have clamoured to make coding a greater part of the school curriculum to try and raise the IT skills of their respective populations.

Interestingly, the greatest steps have probably been made by third party ventures however.  Code Academy is undoubtedly the most well known, with something like 24 million users learning a variety of languages and programming techniques via the site.

Alongside these efforts to educate adult learners however have been a number of projects aiming to teach coding to youngsters.  For instance, Hello Ruby is a book aimed for 4-7 year old girls that aims to help them understand the Ruby on Rails programming language.  The book follows the story of Ruby, who meets penguin, snow leopards and green robots as she creates her own adventures.

Ricarose Roque from the MIT Media Lab has recently released a new guide for engaging the whole family in learning programming.  The guide uses Scratch and MaKey-MaKey as the tools by which to do so.  Scratch is a block based language designed to help with learning to code and create games and the likes.  MaKey-MaKLy is a tool to help users create physical interfaces for computing systems.

Roque facilitates two-hour workshops using these tools to involve children and their parents in the art and science of computer programming.  He’s also created a guide however to form the blueprint for those wishing to establish their own workshop sessions.

The guide comes with lesson plans, journals and other resources to help get things up and running.  Each workshop is designed to go through four phases, all of which begin with dinner.  The phases are catchily titled Eat-Meet-Make-Share, with the workshops closed with a community fair during which each family shares their projects with the group.

It’s a really nice way to get children learning to code in a fun and interactive way.  You can read a bit more about the project in Roque’s own words below, or check out the video introducing the concept at the end of the blog.

Technology pervades all aspects of our lives and young people are growing up playing, learning, and connecting with technology. However, parents, especially those with little to no background in technology, are often unsure what role they can play. These workshops leverage the learning dynamics that families already use in activities like literacy development and support families in using them in the context of computing, enabling parents and children to become more empowered learning partners.

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