So your kid is into computers and you are at a loss to help stimulate this interest?
Join the club.
Thanks to my big brother, a Tech Lead at Google, I have two great free downloads for computer scientists as young as kindergarten age.
These programs are easy to use and inevitably your child’s skills will surpass your own quickly. But fear not, there are little communities of these smarty pants kids out there to help. Plus, books, online tutorials, etc.
Squeak — here is what they have to say for themselves
Squeak is a modern, open source, full-featured implementation of the powerful Smalltalk programming language and environment. Squeak is highly-portable – even its virtual machine is written entirely in Smalltalk making it easy to debug, analyze, and change. Squeak is the vehicle for a wide range of projects from multimedia applications, educational platforms to commercial web application development.
Okay, that might as well be written in Japanese for how much I understand it.
All I know is that when my son was 5, he could use it to program a little dancing cat.
The cool thing is it will grow with your kid. The more they learn, the more they can do…including program their own little video games. Very cool.
So whether you have a 1st grader or a middle schooler, they can guide themselves through the process. Obviously, the little kid may need a little of your time to read simple words, they will take it from there. The big kid will astound you!
Alice — here is what they have to say for themselves
Alice is an innovative 3D programming environment that makes it easy to create an animation for telling a story, playing an interactive game, or a video to share on the web. Alice is a freely available teaching tool designed to be a student’s first exposure to object-oriented programming. It allows students to learn fundamental programming concepts in the context of creating animated movies and simple video games. In Alice, 3-D objects (e.g., people, animals, and vehicles) populate a virtual world and students create a program to animate the objects.
In Alice’s interactive interface, students drag and drop graphic tiles to create a program, where the instructions correspond to standard statements in a production oriented programming language, such as Java, C++, and C#. Alice allows students to immediately see how their animation programs run, enabling them to easily understand the relationship between the programming statements and the behavior of objects in their animation. By manipulating the objects in their virtual world, students gain experience with all the programming constructs typically taught in an introductory programming course.
Um…yeah… did you get that?
Again, very cool. This free download from the computer geniuses at Carnegie Mellon University is a great self guided introduction to computer science. Dig around the internet for books, communities, and tutorials.
My brother points out that some of the greatest minds he knows taught themselves on a home computer. So, grab a free download and introduce your kid to the fascinating and ever growing world of computer science.
Always wanted to learn how your computer thinks through things? Try it yourself. It can be quite addictive.
Just remember to shove your kids out into the sunshine every now and then. Remind them that their minds will work better, if their bodies are in strong physical condition.