Chromebook School: Learning to Code

I believe my kids’ lives will be better if they learn at least the basics of computer programming. They’ll learn a logical way of thinking, learn patterns of analysis and synthesis, and gain an ability that adds value in a wide variety of careers. I’m not alone in this belief.

Fortunately, a lot of budget-friendly, kid-friendly options are available for learning to code. Here, I’m listing just a few, most of them available for a “Chromebook School” environment:

  • One fun offline option: ThinkFun’s Robot Turtles board game, an introduction to basic programming concepts, where kids tell the adults what to do. 🙂
  • codeSpark Academy with The Foos (USD 8/mo, ages 4-9). Apparently based on the Scratch visual programming language. It looks like a very “cute”, fun approach to learning basic coding concepts.
  • LightBot Jr (ages 4-8, USD 3) and Lightbot (ages 9+) use visual tiles to “program” an on-screen robot to turn on various lights, learning programming concepts along the way.
  • Scratch Jr (free, ages 5-7) is a free, visual programming-language environment for young kids to play in; Scratch is its fun, but more textual, big brother. This has been the inspiration for a number of other apps.
  • Khan Academy (free, ages 8+) includes quite a number of courses. Their “hour of code” projects are listed here.
  • CodeCombat (free/USD 10 depending on options) is, I think, oriented more toward older kids, and those with a competitive streak–but looks intriguing as well.
  • For kids who’ve “caught the bug” of programming, check out the post The Coding Game (Dewdney’s book, long out of print, should still be awesome!), or Project Euler for a simple, no-frills series of exercises. Or check out CodeWars for a environment with some “pizzazz” that offers coding exercises as “katas”,  or HackerRank for yet another community and set of pre-made challenges.
  • Check out other resources at Code.org. Or here. Or here.
  • I haven’t even started to talk about “real-world” robotics. For now, Google it.

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