Blocks of Code

Coding really is become child’s play. This recent BBC news article points to some of the ways kids are being introduced to programming.

The good people at MIT have put together scratch a visual tool allowing kids to do drag-n-drop coding. The help screens give a good idea of how it works. Basically differently shaped blocks are put together (lego style) to form programs: a loop looks like a capital C and holds all the nested statements; booleans are pointy ended and only fit in pointy slots – likewise numbers are round and only fit in round slots … a nice simple introduction to strongly-typed languages. It actually fits pretty closely with how I visualise blocks of code, so it looks like a great way to introduce children to the coding mind-set. The welcoming colourful blocks are non-threatening and simple to understand.

If that all seems too point-n-clicky then there are also efforts to get kids using Ruby. It’s a simple hosted and sandboxed service giving children the chance to write real programs – like a blog in just 6 lines.

This block caught my attention:


In the 1980s, a language called BASIC swept the countryside. It was a language beginners could use to make their computer speak, play music. You could easily draw a big smiley face or a panda or whatever you like!

I’m interested in their choice of Ruby as the simple “gateway” language (the first one’s free, tell your mates), since there have been various discussions about whether Ruby is too complex or powerful for many inexperienced QA and dev teams to be *trusted* with.

It’ll be interesting to see how these kinds of tools are adopted. Either way I think some people at my current client could use a more pointy-clicky programming language …