InfoWorld: How to teach kids to code

Like many programmers, the author is self-taught, but we need meaningful learning experiences to feed the huge future demand for coders

I grew up in Lake County, Fla. When I was six years old, I was determined to have an IQ high enough to enter the "gifted" program. This entitled me to go to a special "gifted class" once per week.

When I was eight, I was introduced to microcomputers. As county administrators upgraded their computers, they shipped their hand-me-downs to "the gifted center," where the old boxes were used to teach "gifted" kids about computers. We were first taught a little Logo, which features a kid's programming environment similar to a computerized Etch-A-Sketch, where you give commands to move around a turtle that draws things with its pen.

I was also given a very cursory introduction to the Basic computer language, including loops, inputs, print statements, and variables. We were permitted to play games like "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," which moved me to read the entire set of books on which it was based. It was my dream to create a different game that I called "Death Time" -- or "DT," because all cool things are abbreviated.

Before long, they closed the gifted program. This was because most Lake County, Fla., school buildings were rotten with asbestos and termites, and in stuccoed block buildings, a broken air conditioner is pretty dangerous. Moreover, the Lake County voters in their infinite wisdom decided to vote to send an extra-penny sales tax to building prisons instead of schools, so budget cuts probably had something to do with it.

Adventures in self-teaching
A short while later -- an eternity in kid time -- my father brought home a computer from work. It was an IBM PS/2 model 30; with the exception of its monochrome monitor, it was way better than the TRS-80s,Commodore-64, and Apple IIs that I'd been introduced to...

You can read the rest of my article "How to teach kids to code" over at Infoworld.

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