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bits 'n pieces by Mike Pagel

Ever now and then I kept wondering how to share with my kids the excitement of creating something with your computer. Of course, today this is a bit more difficult, as they have seen 3D animation games and well-edited websites. I guess that's why they weren't all that hyped when I found my first computer model at our local recycling facilities (an 8-bit Laser VZ-200 with rubber keys). When I finally got it up and running with an old analog TV set they finally asked whether we could play soccer on it. Needless to say that my showing them how it remembers some BASIC commands and lists and executes them did not make any impression.

So the question is for real: How do you get today's kids excited about programming?

And just recently I looked again for environments that allow even young kids (mine are 7 and 9 years old now) to do something and have fun. Obviously any real, text-oriented programming language wouldn't work well.

To cut it short: Something really nice was built by University of Oldenburg: ScratchKara. It is the perfect mixture of Kara, a simulation of a little ladybug and Scratch, an authoring environment from MIT.

ScratchKara allows kids to initially simply explore how the bug moves and turns by pressing the action buttons, then move towards sequencing commands through drag & drop, and eventually end up building algorithms with procedures and functions. Even through it is built for kids and beginners, the environment comes with debugging and refactoring, which I found more than amazing.

My kids love it and I have to admit I keep thinking about how to solve a bit more advanced problems with this language, which does not allow you to store any state information (other than your call stack). Yes, I am hooked, too...

Once the language is understood you can then move to one of the original Kara versions, where you can define the bug's behavior through finite statemachines, Turing tables, Java and other textual languages. And from there, anything is possible.

 

Posted on Wednesday, February 9, 2011 4:45 PM | Back to top


Comments on this post: Kids and programming: ScratchKara

# re: Kids and programming: ScratchKara
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That's is awesome mate!
Thanks for the sharing, i'll show this to my cousin (10 years old) and i'll see if he likes it.
The only problem is the language (we're Portuguese), but he'll try it anyway ;)
Left by Guilherme Cardoso on Feb 09, 2011 10:56 PM

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