According to HackerRank’s 2018 Developer Skills Report, kids who grew up when computers first became home computers learned to code at an earlier age than kids today.
I credit a lot of my success as a computer software engineer to a program called Project Expand, run in Massachusetts in the 80s. We were exposed to a lot of things we’d call STEM or STEAM today (for Science, Technology, Arts, and Math), including the LOGO and BASIC computer programming languages.
With LOGO you drove a little triangle around the screen with a relatively small number of commands. It made programming accessible, geometry tangible.
BASIC was similarly terse, but let you run wild pretty quickly:
10 PRINT "What is your name?" 20 INPUT "... ", name$ 30 PRINT 40 PRINT "hello, "; name$; ", I am your Apple IIe, nice to meet you." 60 END
I loved the fact that, with a small set of instructions, you could see the results of your programming efforts, as crude and unsophisticated as they might be, immediately. We were shown these tools not as something you could make a career out of, but simply in the course of our education, an open-ended question to which we applied our own imaginations.
It was something I fell back on later in life when I was figuring out what I wanted to do: Oh yeah, I remember how this works, we can tell these things what we want them to do…
The Jump to Kids Coding Today
When I wanted to teach kids the fundamentals of computer programming I thought the best place to start was with the tried and true fundamentals of my youth. This is why I use either LOGO (with XLogo-O-Matic 9000 for the Mac) or the Python version of Logo programming with turtle graphics or my new Swift Playground where you can run Logo-like commands.
The goal is to give kids (and adults) a couple simple commands and a canvas on which they can draw and go nuts.
Some kids wind up spending ages on making their vision come to life, others find text-based exploration more interesting.
We hope to inspire a certain curiosity in the new generation the same way LOGO and BASIC did for our earlier generation. Drop us a line and we can get your kid(s) introduced to a new creative tool and see what they can do with it!
Thanks to The Next Web (“Report: 80’s kids started programming at an earlier age than today’s millennials“) for the pointer to the report.