In today’s post I want to cover if Code.org is BAD or GOOD for your student or child. I’ve heard both sides and there’s a lot of misinformation out there online that is not giving the parent or teacher the right idea about exactly what is Code.org computer science curriculum. So hopefully I can clear this up once and for all and address the worrys of parents. Because I think the real worry for parents and teachers comes down to this: Is my student or child wasting their time on the computer and just playing games? Well…I promise if you keep reading you’ll stop feeling guilty as a parent like I did and see that computer screen time can be for learning and enjoyable.
About Code.org’s Mission
Code.org is a computer science curriculum for schools that is run as a non-profit. Their vision is to bring coding to every student all over the USA. You can read more about their vision here: https://code.org/about.
What we here at Simply Coding like about Code.org is that it really gives the kid or student a nice introduction into the world of coding specifically through their program called, “hour of code”. But as I write this I really want parents to understand the differences of real world coding for kids and what we like to call visual programming languages. I’ll do the best I can to explain in parent language.
2 Types of Programming Languages
I like to refer to this as the drag and drop method of coding games. It is easier at first when you are just learning the logic or syntax to simply have a student click the mouse and then drag and drop either images or pieces of already written code into blocks. It’s also great for those who do not yet know how to type and are trying to gain exposure to see if coding may be something they will like. Most kids start here. However, if you notice your child starting to get bored, then it may be time for something more challenging. Code.org is instant gratification for kids, which is why they like it! You simply login online and start clicking and dragging and instantly can see your projects! However, the downfalls are that you cannot go farther than this, thus progression stops for the child and creates boredom. This is mainly due to the fact that most kids that are into coding have the brain to want to keep going and designing their own games or projects beyond their imaginations. With just dragging and dropping blocks is simply not going to cut it for them. Because it is a non profit there is no customer support, which can lead to a first time frustrating experience for some. The child is on their own. So parents just be aware of that. And I almost forgot that because they host all kids projects on their libraries (website) you can’t really save your work and post it whereever.
Bottom Line: Blockly and other similar programs are great to introduce logic or syntax. They are fun to do for kids and great to expose them to how coding works and the cool stuff you can make with it. It is more like you’re playing a game right of the bat. I relate it to perhaps a “theory” class of learning the piano or learning how to play one song without really learning the notes. I can still play “in the jungle” by Lion King and don’t know a single note!
Text Based Computer Programming (real live coding environment).
Once your child is bored, then it is definitely time to move into the text based computer programming to keep feeding his or her imagination of creations. This is the real life coding where your child or student will download a text editor onto their computer (which is free by the way) and actually write or type in letters, numbers, symbols, etc. to then upload to the internet and display their games or projects. A text editor is like notepad or microsoft word, but for computer programming for kids. The downfall is it can be kind of boring to start off as one doesn’t know the basic instructions or rules. However, at Simply Coding we actually have come up with 3 useful games (pong,fish,mario) in the first lesson that we use as a medium to teach the kids coding. This helps with the boredom. We also do live chat support and live weekly webinars to help the child through any frustrations they’re having to try and make it a great first experience. The downfall is that the student does need to know how to type 15 words per minute and this is because we want it to be a great experience and finger typing won’t get the job done and be frustrating for your child and you as the parent. The other thing to be aware of is that there is no forgiveness in text-based coding for kids. You put a semi colon in the wrong place or forget a letter somewhere, the computer will not have the right instructions to move an object and the code will fail. But nowadays there’s so many tools that check the code and tell the student where the errors are. Just like if you were to hit the wrong key on the piano. Also unlike other sites we do NOT host your kids projects at all. They get to learn how to post it on github and create their own portfolio of stuff. This way they take it with them and it’s theirs forever!
Bottom Line: Text based computer programming is the real deal. You actually type the code and then see it come to life! There are no boundaries. The more you learn, the more you can do that eventually leads to a skill and a job or career! I would relate this to actually reading music and playing the piano and not just learning a song to where you eventually can pick up a sheet of music and play anything. At least that makes sense in my head.
Which Coding for Kids Course Best for my Child or my Students?
This is actually quite easy to answer. It really depends on their age and or grade in school, their previous exposure to any type of coding, and typing skills. If the child is in elementary school or 11 years or younger, then they probably most likely don’t know how to type yet either and would benefit from code.org or scratch coding programs for initial exposure and to learn some logic. If on the other hand your student or child is 12 years old to 18 years old and can type, then the dragging and dropping will become very boring very quickly and the free coding resources out there is not going to cut it.
I hope this was explained well enough to a parent, but if you have any questions, please hit us up on chat or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or heck even give us a call. We are parents too and totally get it. Simply Coding for kids is all about turning those computer gamers into programmers and coders. Feel free to watch our video series on this here. It will go through 4 short videos of what we exactly do at Simply Coding!