CODE MONSTER AND TEACHING PROGRAMMING TO KIDS

by esther wojcicki

This post is written by Greg Linden, my former student who is has been doing some amazing work with technology.  He just launched CODE MONSTER and I thought all teachers should see this. It is a great way to introduce programming even if you know little about it yourself.  Here is his blog post.

Code Monster from Crunchzilla helps parents teach a little programming to their kids.

A lot of parents want their kids to learn a little about programming. But, if you are a parent, there seem to be only two choices out there, either have your kids slog through all the syntax and pain of tutorials and textbooks made for adults, or have them learn a visual programming language made for kids that can’t be used for anything else.

Code Monster teaches Javascript, which is a useful and valuable programming language to know. When learning using Code Monster, the code is live, so changes kids make have impact immediately. They learn a bit about how to program, starting with early concepts like parameters, variables, and loops, moving through functions, eventually introducing some of the wonders of fractals, animation, and physics. Code Monster encourages experimentation. It makes programming fun.

Code Monster is an unusual blend of a tutorial and a game. It is not a tutorial or a lesson plan, but it does walk kids through many experiments with a real, useful programming language. It is not a game, but many of the children who have playtested it have found it fun, addictive, and exciting.

If you’re a geek like me, there are some techie aspects of Code Monster you may find interesting. For example, Code Monster uses live code so kids see the immediate impact from code changes, no hitting a run or compile button. Code Monster provides useful help messages if the player stops working on the code but has an error. There are several nice but subtle features — like preventing most accidental infinite loops — that are harder to do than you might think (if you think you know how to do that in Javascript, try it, I bet your solution doesn’t work). It only needs an internet connection when you first go to Code Monster (allowing working on lessons offline) and keeps your progress without saving anything remotely (privacy is important). The lessons eventually introduce quite sophisticated topics — like fractals, L-grammars, animation, and physics — that are very fun for kids but not normally taught to beginning programmers. But all of that tech stuff only matters because it makes Code Monster do the right thing; the important thing is that Code Monster fun and enjoyable to use.

Code Monster came out of my interest in online education, especially math and computer science education. I am convinced that, when this generation of children grows up, algorithmic thinking, large scale data analysis, and programming will be a major force multiplier for people working in many fields. People who have these tools will have the power to find breakthroughs in medicine, biology, economics, and many other areas; these tools will let them do things no others have done. I hope Code Monster can be a small piece of many more girls and boys becoming interested in computational thinking.

Please try Code Monster. It’s free and it’s fun. If you have kids (especially ages 9-14) , please have them try it. If you know people who have kids (or adults who are young at heart and might want to dabble in programming), please tell them about it (and share on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter too). I’d love to get the word out about it, and it’s all for a good cause, it’s teaching kids to program. Finally, if you have any suggestions or find it useful for your kids, please post a comment here or e-mail Greg Linden at monster@crunchzilla.com, he’d enjoy knowing how you like it and how he can make it better.

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One thought on “CODE MONSTER AND TEACHING PROGRAMMING TO KIDS

  1. This is a great concept that was created for children. I wonder what is the feedback parents have about this program and if they are understanding coding through it or are the children teaching the parents. How will this help children in the classroom?

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