13 Jul Summer of Code
Mr Simon Baldwin, Computer Science Teacher at CIS and CAS East Master Teacher explains how to take up coding and explore this life skill with your children over the summer…..
In the summer holidays, children have lots of time on their hands. This is a good thing, as they have time to try new things. Maybe this is the summer when your child will take up coding…
Complete beginners and primary age children will prefer to start off using block-based languages. This is like a programming form of Lego where different programming blocks are added together to make programs. The advantage of block-based languages is that there is a very shallow learning curve and children can quickly make something worthwhile. All the important concepts are still there, it is not a coincidence that most primary schools begin to teach coding with Scratch. When looking for ways to get started, the best things in life really are free and all the websites I recommend are either completely free or have a free component.
This is an entirely free website offering courses from age 6 to university level. The beginner courses use a block-based language called Blockly. They consist of a series of coding puzzles that begin easy and then get incrementally harder, covering most of the important ideas in programming along the way. Children can also dip their toe in the water with the “Hour of Code” activities.
The original and most popular block-based coding language. Your child will probably have used it at school. It runs in a web browser and is completely open-ended. You will be amazed at what your child can do while thinking that they are just playing!
For older children and those who have already tried lots of coding, it may be time to try a text-based language. These are the more traditional type of language where commands are typed into the computer. At CIS, we use a popular language called Python. Python is used as a teaching language but is also very powerful and flexible and it widely used in professional situations for data analysis.
A useful website for getting used to Python is Snakify ( https://snakify.org/). Snakify uses lots of examples and puzzles to explain how the language works, it is also free, at least for the moment.
Code Academy ( https://www.codecademy.com/learn/learn-python )
also has a free Python course although the free parts are getting harder to find as Code Academy is now promoting its paid course upgrades (denoted PRO).
Another website worth mentioning is Repl.it ( https://repl.it/repls/OrneryLinearBaitware ) which gives you an online Python coding environment to practise with. Keen Python programmers can always download Python for free from https://www.python.org/downloads/
Time spent on a computer is not always wasted, of course the normal rules still apply and screen time should be limited to the recommended limits, depending on the age of the child. How much screen time is healthy is a hotly debated topic, see this article
Learning to code is learning a useful life skill, and what’s more it can be lots of fun too!
Have an enjoyable and productive summer.
Mr Simon Baldwin
Computing at School Master Teacher
Cambridge International School