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Archive for May, 2008

image of programming building blocks from Scratch program

I came across some research out of MIT recently featuring an innovative approach to teaching programming to children (ages 8 and up).  One of the products they’ve produced is a application called Scratch. Using this tool, the user fits lego-block like programming modules together to manipulate graphics, sounds, and video on the screen.  The emphasis of the application is on helping children understand and get used to working with programming concepts such as logical structures (i.e, if statements, for-loops), screen coordinates, objects, etc.  without having to worry about syntax. I downloaded the program the other day onto my home computer and showed it to my seven- and five-year old boys.  We were learning how to use the tool together, when after about five minutes, I realized my seven-year old was picking things up faster than I was.  My five-year old also enjoys playing with it and is asking for father-son time so I can teach him to use it.  As a geek, I’m naturally thrilled. As an educator, I’m intrigued by the implications of how this will help children develop math and logic skills, and as a father, I’m thrilled for another way to spend time productively with my children.

In my undergraduate program, I remember that the programming courses were something of a barrier for business students who were interested in information systems, but did not have any background in programming. Perhaps tools like this could be useful on the college level as well.

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