By Reyne Rice, Toy Trend Expert, New York, New York USA
First posted on the YourToyCom.com blog forum and community website serving the toys, games and childrens’ technology industries, on behalf of the Spielwarenmesse. Spielwarenmesse is the leading and largest International ToyFair in the world, held annually in Nuremberg, Germany in early February.
A few months ago, I had the pleasure of escorting Mr. Ernst Kick, CEO of the Spielwarenmesse, to a number of key business appointments in the USA. One of our stops was at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Lab in Boston, Massachusetts. There we met with various team members, who updated us on the work they were doing to engage children in the education of science and technology. Some of their innovative programs were designed to teach children to build animations and other programs, using a simple block-like computer programming code, called Scratch.
It was fascinating to see the examples of how children were using and understanding this simple coding program and creating products that were then shared forward with other children. Over the years, the free software provided by the MIT Lab’s Scratch programs has engaged millions of children worldwide in learning about programming code, and exploring the applications with relevant and fun animations, games and stories.
Since then, I have researched a variety of other resources that are being used in schools, in after-school programs and in summer classes, to encourage and stimulate children’s knowledge in these areas. Here is a listing of some of the resources that are available, in the form of websites, mobile apps and more, to aid teachers and students in learning more about coding, logic and critical thinking. Some programs are suitable for kids as young as five years old!
According to Code.org statistics, computer science is the highest-paid college degree, and jobs in computer programming are growing at twice the national average, in the USA. This means that what kids learn now, in this area of digital competency can eventually be used in their career choices later in life.
Online education company Pluralsight recently hosted a series of programming crash courses for children in several Utah schools. The company currently offers three free programming courses for kids, and CEO Aaron Skonnard said the company hopes to offer dozens more by the end of 2013.
- Google offers computer science and coding competitions and summer programs.
- Scratch, developed at MIT, is a free program designed to help children learn coding by programming their own stories, games, and animations.
- Hopscotch is an iPad app “inspired by” Scratch.
- Daisy the Dinosaur, from the creators of Hopscotch, targets children as young as five. Children use coding to make Daisy dance across the screen.
- Alice teaches students 3D computer programming. Students create stories or videos, or play games.
- After-School Programming is an offshoot of Codecademy.
- CodeHS offers instructional materials and tutors to help people learn about computer science.
- Code Monster lets kids view a split screen to see what their coding commands look like as they’re executed.
- Girls Who Code offers clubs and summer programs for high school girls interested in learning more about computer programming.
- Lego Mindstorms EV3 uses different programming languages for building materials that students use to create programmable robots. The Lego Education Division was created to assist teachers and educators in providing the tools and curriculum materials to teach kids about science, robotics and technology with hands-on experiences.
VEX Robotics is a new retail division of Innovation First (the creators of Hex Bugs), and in 2014 will be offering cutting edge robotics technology to students and educators in robotics kits available at retail. KNEX Education already offers special kits for educators and schools, that are designed to give students the skills and knowledge they need to become lifelong learners who can solve problems, think critically, work together and adapt to change in today’s technologically evolving world.
I welcome any additional insights and resources from blog readers on programs available in other countries.