A coder’s journey
Kylie is 6, missing 2 front teeth, and is loving code club. Her current focus is Sploder; an arcade game that gives agency to the child by allowing the player to choose whatever monsters or challenges they want their character to face. The player builds the shape of the landscape, the “energy” rewards, the challenges to overcome and then plays their game. We have evolved a lot since the 80s arcade!
Sploder was not Kylie’s entry point for learning to code. There are some amazing games and apps out there, and her first toe-dip was an incredible game called Sprite Box. We live in a world of abstractions, you want to travel from A to B, and there is a bus company, train service, taxi, or car manufacturer who is handing out the solution to get you there. You, quite literally, do not have to worry about the mechanics of how to travel. Learning to code has undergone a similar revolution in abstraction. Kids do not need to write to learn to create algorithms or loops. With Sprite Box, kids do not even have to be able to read to grasp coding concepts.
Sprite box challenges the young coder to create solutions using pre-set methods while forcing them to practice DRY (do not repeat yourself) techniques by limiting the number of actions that they may apply. From the start, Kylie was forced to consider what behaviours her little robot, responsible for assisting her (male or female) character to complete her mission of repairing her space ship, was going to do. The concept of enforcing efficiency in code by building functions to call was implicit.
Kylie joined in on this adventure at Coder Dojo, a weekly club held at the Cape Town Science Centre for kids interested in coding. As an ex-high school teacher, I find Coder Dojo a relaxing place to hang out because it fits all of my educational desires for any child. This is a pull education, not a push education. There is no curriculum, and the children simply follow their interests.
There are kids immersed in Minecraft, Raspberry pie builds, or apps such as Scratch, Algorithm City, Sploder, and Ozaria. They may be found designing their own website or troubleshooting their python code. What they are involved in depends entirely on what their interests are. They work in groups, and they work alone. What is clearly apparent to an ex-mainstream teacher, is that they are all avidly involved in their work.
Is your child interested in coding? Do you perhaps have no idea whether your child is interested in coding? Either way, feel welcome and come and join in.