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Creative Coding By Martin Burrett Programming and coding in schools has gained increased prominence in the media with educational policy makers and practitioners. The late Steve Jobs said “I think everyone should learn how to program a computer, because it teaches you how to think.” But for many educators, teaching children to code is a daunting prospect. Here are a few websites and resources which should help make this a pleasurable and fascinating exploration of thinking and problem solving skills, discussion and design. A good way to begin is to start your children to think about actions and commands in a modular way. LightBot is a good game where players must guide a robot along a series of increasingly difficult obstacles by creating a set of pre-programmed commands. In the later levels, players also need to create a subroutine, a repeated or looped command, to complete the challenges. You can also make your own levels to complete and share with other players on online. CargoBot on iPad and MusicDroid on Android have similar features. For young learners, a good place to start is an iPad app called Daisy the Dinosaur. The children are presented with a cute pet dinosaur which they have to instruct to perform actions and tricks. They do this by choosing the commands they want from the left panel, drag the blocks into the command window and set the values. There are a number of challenges to complete to ‘train’ the dinosaur and the children can modify the commands to help daisy perform some intricate tricks. You can add share the commands with others at the click on a button. You can begin looking at real programming language with a free downloadable resource called RobotMind. The users use programming commands to move a robot rover about the environment. Anyone who has used MS Logo will be familiar with the basic commands of the programme. They can make basic instructions to control the robot using repetition loops, conditional ‘if’ commands to add of element of logic. The commands range from simple movement, collecting ‘props’ from the environment, placing beacons and drawing. There is a detailed set of tutorials on the site and even planning for Primary and Secondary educators to use. The fun really begins with MicroSoft’s Kodu Game Lab, as it is the first resource where the only restriction on creativity are the ideas of the programmer themselves. This is a superb game creator where the programmer can create seemingly endless worlds of stunning 3D digital landscapes to explore. The games are based around a character called Kodu. Each character and some of the environment can be programmed to behaviour in a particular way. You can design enemy sprites to simply walk between two points or to activity seek out and attack the players. Each sprite has a collection of commands the designer can use to customise what it does.

UKED Magazine Jun 2014

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