Teaching programming to the masses.

Most people believe it’s easiest to learn new things when you are young, however, I believe if you are still able to think then you are still able to learn, but there is one good reason for learning earlier and that’s the time to practice and gain experience.

Starting to learn programming early certainly has it’s benefits, the best ones are almost always the ones who started when they were young, and this leads us to the main part of this blog: Teaching Programmers.

I grew up programming the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, not an experience I’d want anyone else to try, (though it was pretty clever for its time). This was always a rather loney pursuit, and in many cases, still is. However, programming has come a long way since then, object orientated programming was a massive improvement and Garbage Collectors have improved far enough to be pretty fast and reliable.

But has the way we program really changed that much? Well, no not really. All programming comes down to opening up a file and writing symbols in certain orders that only a select few can understand. How does the majority learn what’s going on? Isn’t it a little strange that the world over uses software but a tiny minority actually know how to create it?

Well, I think so, but the good news is that programming is slowly going mainstream, and there’s several really useful and fun pieces of software available to teach it, here’s my top picks.

Alice (http://www.alice.org/) (Personal Favourite!)
With this you first create a 3D world with characters and props through a simple drag and drop interface. You then control what happens through coding. The tutorial is excellent and gets you going immediatey. It won’t be long before you are creating your own little world (See mine here)

Scratch (http://scratch.mit.edu/)
Two-dimensional images can be controlled to make all kinds of interesting games and tools. There’s a large list of examples created by people across the world.

Kudo (http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/projects/kodu/)
This one is especially for creating games and just looks really nice. The programming is just drag and drop.

Karel (http://mormegil.wz.cz/prog/karel/prog_doc.htm)
This isn’t actually a program but a fully fledge programming language. But it’s designed especially for people new to programming.

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