And how we make learning fun and coding play!
At QwertyKids, we’ve discovered that (for adults) getting the hang of coding is pretty easy if you think of it like this:
Coding is the new ‘shorthand’ name for computer programming.
Coders or computer programmers – whether they be Microsoft geniuses or QwertyKids (geniuses all!) – use code to tell computers what to do.
Got it so far?
What you need to do now is to think about different technology as using different languages.
At QwertyKids, we teach several languages depending on students’ skill levels and, most importantly, the nature of projects whether they be gaming, app or web based.
We use a variety of applications (tools) for our projects – and these tools use different languages.
The difference between block and text-based code
Before we explore the languages and tools used at QwertyKids let’s explain the two main types of programming, block-based or graphical and text based.
Simply put, text-based programming languages are typed and block-based languages use the drag and drop method.
QwertyKids agrees with a number of experts that the text versus block-based programming debate is a pretty hollow one: the code to be used depends on the projects children are enthusiastic about and how they can best be bought to fruition.
At QwertyKids we think it’s great when children start to critique their languages and tools.
If you visit our classroom you’ll hear lively discussions about the pros and cons of different languages and tools: a sure sign of enthusiasm, creative thinking and problem solving.
Our primary languages and tools
Here are the main languages taught at Qwerty Kids – and the different tools we use to do it:
Our newbies to coding use powerful coloured block-based languages like Scratch .
Scratch is exciting (and compelling) because students get great results very quickly. For example, your child will leave their first Scratch session at QwertyKids with their very own interactive animation. Just a few sessions later, they’ll code a game complete with a timer and score!
As you do your own investigations into coding you may come across an argument along the lines of: Scratch is not real programming, it’s just a toy…
QwertyKids agrees with other experts that Scratch is deceptively simple but can produce complex projects, which – just like text-based programming – involve high-level problem solving skills and creativity.
Another great thing about block-based languages like Scratch – particularly for first time coders – is that they minimise inevitable syntax errors.
With block-based languages you can concentrate on arranging blocks in interesting ways, some of which will do extraordinary things and others not quite what you expect. Playful experimentation is surely the name of the game for newbies.
If you visit QwertyKids students using block-based languages could be:
- creating games to be played in Virtual Reality
- coding robots to connect to the internet
- making microcomputers detect movement
- choreographing a synchronised drone routine
- programming using Artificial Intelligence
No surprise, programming our drones is one of QwertyKids most fun, popular, and creative activities!
To sum up, QwertyKids agrees: It will be a long time before most kids start bumping against the restrictions of Scratch and other block-based languages…
Text-based languages are just that: they use symbols, letters, and numbers in precise configurations to tell computers what to do.
These are some of the text-based languages QwertyKids learn – and the tools used to put them into action:
Python (yes named after Monty Python!)
A general – and brilliant – multipurpose professional programming language used to power Instagram, build games and, at QwertyKids, even hack Minecraft!
The possibilities for Python, are endless: think games, pie charts and graphs, and even encryption programmes to send and receive secret messages (though we don’t know what parents think of this one!)
At QwertyKids we use a variety of up-to-the-minute tools to teach Python including small computers called Raspberry Pis, their add-on Sense Hats, micro:bits, and Codey Rocky robots.
Java is an all-time great of the coding world and at QwertyKids we use App Inventor to teach it. App Inventor is a cloud based tool so students can build apps straight into their browsers and then upload them to the Google Play Store.
At QwertyKids, we do include CoffeeScript in our language menu and our teaching tool is Code Monkey.
QwertyKids thinks it’s important for kids to critique the languages and tools they use: and knowing about CoffeeScript lets them participate in a current debate – another valuable learning experience.
HTML and CSS
HTML (Hypertext Mark Up Language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) are crucial for making web pages; HTML is for the structure of pages (it tells browsers about headings or lists etc) and CSS provides the layout for visual components.
Projects using HTML and CSS include slick greeting cards, visually rich posters, and information based pamphlets.
At QwertyKids our students also learn HTML and CSS by constructing their own webpages – surely one of the most satisfying and creative outcomes for any coder!
Take a look inside a coding session
QwertyKids hopes this article has helped to go some way towards helping you get the drift about the basics of coding.
We understand that while words can be useful there’s nothing like seeing the real thing in action.
At QwertyKids, parents, carers, and loved ones are all welcome to call in and have some of our languages and tools demonstrated.
In the meantime you can checkout our Geek Peek Album and see how QwertyKids coding sessions are structured.
We prised Emmanuel, 11 away from his keyboard just long enough to ask him about his coding adventure so far. [Read more…]