If you have ever played Dungeons and Dragons, you know how annoying the process is of creating a new character. You have to roll the dice countless times in order to determine the level of your player's characteristics.
I used to play D&D all of the time when I was a kid. My first computer was a TRS-80, the one by Tandy from Radio Shack with the cassette tape recorder for a disk drive. I've never considered myself a programmer, but I know enough HTML and CSS to be dangerous (hardly).
One day, a million years ago, I was flipping through PC Magazine and discovered a simple script in BASIC to randomly draw numbers. Bingo! I created a program my friends and I could use to help us generate new characters for D&D on the fly. We just fired up the program, entered the character's name, hit the return key, and presto. The new character would instantly print out from my tiny POS-style printer. We could get right back to playing.
Now, a million years later, I encourage both of my kids to code. Code.org is a great starting point for all children. If you are a parent or you have kids in your life, you must check it out.
Programming is a basic literacy in the digital age
Two years ago, I bought my kids a MakeyMakey. It's a wonderful piece of hardware that plugs into your USB port. You attach alligator clips to inanimate objects like Playdoh or bananas to create remotes. These remotes replace what the keyboard would otherwise do. Here's Sam playing his banana piano.
Last Summer Sam attended a camp to learn Scratch, which is a free programming language from MIT designed for kids. They programmed their own Pong-style games and used MakeyMakey as the controllers. It was awesome.
This year we will be getting a Raspberry Pi, which is a tiny, inexpensive computer that can be used to learn programming through cool, little projects. It's time to take my kid's coding skills to the next level. I can't wait to get geeky and to start playing with the device. Teaching them is bringing out the kid in me.
Programming is a basic literacy in the digital age. Are you teaching your kids to code?