Sunday, February 17, 2013


Recently a good friend of mine posted a TEDtalk about Scratch (a MIT platform for creative design projects using kid friendly code blocks). The thing that struck me about the talk was that code is going to be (or already is) a universal language for creative design for this generation. Children all over the world are going to be required to write a computer language, not just a foreign language.

Why am I not teaching code? (I don't mean me...but why aren't my kids learning code?)   Why don't I learn code?  It is so easy just to use interfaces that are already designed and easy to use...but by not teaching it and making it mainstream, we are driving our kids to simply be consumers of tech products rather than designers, makers, innovators and manifestors of ideas.  In that spirit yesterday, I started learning html and Tristan started Javascript.

This means I have to learn Javascript too to trouble shoot.  Eek. But it is not that bad...really!

We are doing this for free! at the Codecademy. You can pick any of the 7 streams of programming to go down and just start.  Lessons are short, fun, pretty easy (meaning...I can do it!) and they seem to be working.  Tristan does a bunch of them in a row and then he has to "teach" his poor, slow mother.

I want him to use what he is learning now.  He can connect with other beginning Javascript learners through Codecademy.  I was delighted to learn that Javascript is the computer language of servers, and even the language of Minecraft.  There is a new Minecraft mod that can be added to the game to allow players to use Javescript commands to automate construction tasks.

'Ultimately I think the Scriptcraft mod could be used to take building in Minecraft to a whole new level. With a full-blown language at the Player's disposal, it should be possible to create not just castles and forts but entire road networks and cities.' Most importantly of all, it not only pushes the boundary of Minecraft, it also provides a way to get kids who are already hooked on Minecraft to start learning JavaScript.
                                                                                           Markus Alexej Persson (creator of Minecraft)

Tristan's dream this year was to write a mod for Minecraft.  I thought it was a pie in the sky dream (it still is), however I feel we are taking one step forward towards that goal.   I feel that by exploring Scratch, Mindstorms lego microcroller programming (in his tech class), Game Design and Codecadamy he is getting the tools to use technology to create and make rather than be a consumer of it.

------- 2 weeks later:

I have been enjoying learning to code!  Today I started my first little game!  I switched to Javascript (even though I have been advised to learn a more secure language).  The problem is that I am finding coding more fun than writing blogs.

After two weeks, Tristan is not so keen to continue learning languages like this right now.  He is a little young and it is quite abstract at this point.  Instead, he is continuing to enjoy Minecraft and continually exploring how to expand his Minecraft repertoire.  We will come back to it when the time is right.

We also watched Minecraft: The Story of Mojang, an inspiring documentary about how Minecraft was created.  I highly recommend to anyone who has come across Minecraft, and especially to parents of Minecrafters.

I am looking into some more interesting coding resources for children and I will write a post about that a little further down the track.  If you have come across any good tech ideas and opportunities I would love to here about them too.

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