Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Programming Without Learning Code.....

How many of you had to learn a Programming language going through school? Whether it was Basic, Pascal, Cobol, C+, C++, Visual Basic, etc., etc. Did you really like reading through lines and lines of code to figure out where a problem was so. How many times did you go cross-eyed looking at the pages and pages of code. I know there were a few times I did and I bet you would have to agree with me.

So what is my point. What if I told you that gone are the days of learning code just to program a stick figure to walk across the screen... like I did on an Apple IIe back in 1986. So now I show my age. The good thing is that students today do not have to worry about learning to program by entering in lines and lines of code. This will surely allow a younger student base to get into programming with a lower barrier to entry.

What would you say if I told you that students as young as 8 are learning how to program. How is this possible you may be asking? They are using a program called Scratch which was developed by faculty and students of MIT's Media Lab.

The great thing is that students are learning how to program without having to learn a programming language. This program offers all the commands in nice neat blocks that the students can just drag, drop and connect them together, "like Lego’s®,"to make the actions take place on the screen. The software is a great tool to get young female students excited about working with computers and programming which has historically been a male dominated profession.

Scratch teaches your students higher order thinking and problem solving skills. It provides your students with the foundations of learning mathematical concepts in a fun and easy way. Whether a student is a right or left brain thinker they will easily be able to create programs in Scratch. One thing that I like and is a great benefit is that students get instant gratification because they can see the evolution of the program as they are creating it.

The Scratch website also allows your students an outlet for others to see their work. The site is set up so that the teacher or student can learn how to use the software through the detailed Support link which includes video and pdf tutorials. There are also a number of other videos demonstrating how to perform certain tasks with Scratch as well as general tutorials for the beginning to advanced user on both TeacherTube an YouTube. A student, or teacher, can Share their program, or project, to the website an others can see it, comment on it, share it, download it, remix it, and re-upload it.

Take a look for yourself and see how easy it is to create a program without ever learning any type of programming language.

video provided by: MIT University Media Lab

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