Programming with Kids Follow-upJanuary 25, 2006
The always interesting Julie Leung posted a follow-up to my Teaching Programming to Kids post. Next, Scoble visited Carnegie Mellon and got a tour of the Alice programming environment. The comments on all three of these posts provide some great insight into a question more and more people are asking.
Julie and her daughters are diving into Squeak, a very cool learning environment that now has a book to help people get started. Ben and I played with Squeak almost two years ago, but we'll definitely give it another try this weekend.
We haven't used Alice yet, but will explore it as well after having it recommended multiple times. Both Alice and Squeak support Macs as well as PCs.
The other software that was recommended was GameMaker. We downloaded it two weeks ago and Ben has had a great time creating games with it (PC only, by the way). He's already learned a lot of the If-Then basics. More importantly, he's learned how to explore an entirely new environment. He makes great use of the help files and regularly plays with the various examples they provide. He learns how they do it, then adds it to his game. Sounds like Programming 101 to me :)
All of these options are wonderfully free. The other major announcement this month is far from free but very exciting. Lego announced Mindstorms NXT, the long-awaited follow-up to their highly successful robot building product. The new edition is due this fall and will include bluetooth for downloading programs from your computer and, at long last, a Macintosh version! Wired has a terrific article about how this came about, and how truly innovative the development approach is for the new product.
Thanks for the great tips and feedback! As we explore more, I'll share what we learn.