Scratch is a free drag-and-drop programming language for kids, developed at MIT. My 10-year-old daughter Jane uses it to create puzzles, games, and interactive cartoons. In 2012 I reviewed a book called Super Scratch Programming Adventure, a comic book guide to Scratch. I recommend it.
I also recommend the new book, Learn to Program with Scratch: A Visual Introduction to Programming with Games, Art, Science, and Math. Like Super Scratch Programming Adventure, this book is aimed at the complete beginner, but it goes deeper, exploring powerful programming concepts that show how useful Scratch is, for kids and adults.
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This Raspberry PI based computer kit looks like a great way to get kids interested in programming. The programming language looks kind of like Scratch, the free drag-and-drop programming language developed at MIT. A Kickstarter pledge of $9 or more gets you "downloads of the Kano books, OS, and projects. Plus, we'll put your name in our source code."
Kano: A computer anyone can make
Scratch, an excellent and free drag-and-drop programming language for kids developed at MIT, has a new web-based interface. My 10-year-old daughter Jane uses it to create puzzles, games, and interactive cartoons. One thing I like about Scratch is that it's really hard to make a syntax or spelling mistake. The inevitable bugs that arise in a complex Scratch program are therefore more interesting to solve.
Last year I reviewed a terrific introductory book called Super Scratch Programming Adventure!, which teaches Scratch through game programming. There's a new version of the book that covers the web-based Scratch 2, and it went on sale this week.
Super Scratch Programming Adventure! (Covers Version 2): Learn to Program by Making Cool Games
Robot Turtles is "a board game you play with your favorite 3 to 8-year-old that sneakily teaches programming fundamentals." Created by entrepreneur Dan Shapiro and inspired by classic kids' programming language Logo, the board game lets kids ages 3-8 write programs with colorful playing cards. The game is brilliantly simple: kids play a row of action cards to control their turtle on the board, as moved by the adult game master.
Dan designed the game for his 4-year-old boy/girl twins, because "people who can program are going to be writing the future, and everybody else is going to be reading it." With 10,000 backers, Robot Turtles is nearly the most-backed board game on Kickstarter. It's available until Sept 27 for $29 and is scheduled to ship in time for Christmas.
Dan's a good friend of mine (I'm Robot Turtles' first backer), and we spent months discussing the strategy behind both Robot Turtles and my recent Kickstarter. If you're interested in some of the lessons Dan and I learned, he's got a great post up on the subject.
Invented in 1801, Jacquard looms are really an add-on to already existent mechanical loom systems, which allowed those looms to create patterns more complex and intricate than anything that had been done before. The difference: Punch cards.
When you weave, the pattern comes from changes in thread position — which threads were exposed on the surface of the cloth and which were not. But prior to the Jacquard loom, there were only so many threads that any weaver could control at one time, so patterns were simple and blocky. Essentially, the Jacquard system vastly increased the pixels available in any weaving pattern, by automatically controlling lots and lots of threads all at once. Punch cards told the machine which threads were in play at any given time.
It's a really cool process, and I wanted to share a couple of videos that give you a good idea of how these looms work and how they changed the textiles industry. You can watch them below. But probably the best example is the image above. It's a picture of Joseph-Marie Jacquard, woven in silk on the loom he invented — a fantastic demonstration of the design power that loom offered. In just a few years, people went from weaving simple stars and knots, to weaving patterns that almost look like they were spit out of a printer.
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Lisa of PBS Off Book says:"We just released our first episode of 2013, 'The Art of Creative Coding.' This one was really interesting to work on, since I hadn't previously been aware of the platforms and libraries available to creative programmers. And the projects they create are beautiful."
Programming plays a huge role in the world that surrounds us, and though its uses are often purely functional, there is a growing community of artists who use the language of code as their medium. Their work includes everything from computer generated art to elaborate interactive installations, all with the goal of expanding our sense of what is possible with digital tools. To simplify the coding process, several platforms and libraries have been assembled to allow coders to cut through the nitty-gritty of programming and focus on the creative aspects of the project. These platforms all share a strong open source philosophy that encourages growth and experimentation, creating a rich community of artists that share their strategies and work with unprecedented openness.
My 9-year-old daughter Jane likes playing with Scratch, a kids' programming language developed at MIT. (I recently reviewed a great book called Super Scratch Programming Adventure.)
Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming is another programming book for kids. I've been going through it myself, and enjoying it. Unlike Scratch, which lets you write programs by dragging and dropping colored command blocks, Python is a traditional programming language that uses lines of code. I've played around with other languages a bit, but Python is the only language that seems to be as easy and intuitive as BASIC. I'm not sure if Jane is ready for Python -- she wouldn't have trouble learning it, but it's not as fun as Scratch (at least at first), but I think in a year or two she might be. And this is the book I'll give her when she's ready.
Python for Kids brings Python to life and brings you (and your parents) into the world of programming. The ever-patient Jason R. Briggs will guide you through the basics as you experiment with unique (and often hilarious) example programs that feature ravenous monsters, secret agents, thieving ravens, and more. New terms are defined; code is colored, dissected, and explained; and quirky, full-color illustrations keep things on the lighter side.
Chapters end with programming puzzles designed to stretch your brain and strengthen your understanding. By the end of the book you'll have programmed
two complete games: a clone of the famous Pong and "Mr. Stick Man Races for the Exit" -- a platform game with jumps, animation, and much more.
As you strike out on your programming adventure, you'll learn how to:
--Use fundamental data structures like lists, tuples, and maps
--Organize and reuse your code with functions and modules
--Use control structures like loops and conditional statements
--Draw shapes and patterns with Python's turtle module
--Create games, animations, and other graphical wonders with tkinter
Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming
Rybka, a powerful chess program, was stripped last year of its titles and its author publicly disgraced. Declared a plagiarist by the International Computer Games Association, Vasik Rajlich was also handed a lifetime ban on competition and ordered to return thousands of dollars in prize money. But the investigation’s conclusions are now being challenged, opening a fissure in the computer chess community.
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TechCrunch is hosting a hackathon at its SF conference, with $500,000 in prizes. There are also unusual hats