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An Early Start

My daughter is about 6 ½ years old. Her reading skills have blossomed in these last 6 months. It's been an amazing experience as a parent both contributing and merely witnessing her discovery of literacy.

Programming is one of my passions, and I like to share my passions. Like watching a sunset, it's better when you are not alone. I've been kicking around ideas for teaching her how to program for a couple of years actually. I had a few concepts that I never got around too, but I abandoned them all when I heard about Boku.

Boku is an iconic programming game for the Xbox. Microsoft announced it at PDC. It looks really cool, though I do have a slight hesitation about the iconic part. (I do so like words.)

Tonight, just before dinner I stumbled onto Small Basic via Brian Johnson's blog.  It's essentially a simple IDE with very pretty IntelliSense (that includes keywords). There's a simplified API for accessing things like the system clock and the desktop's wallpaper. Most of it well over my daughter's head. However, I noticed a class called Turtle that allows you do draw in a Logo-esque manner. I decided to see if she was interested. She was.

Here is her first program. I left the IntelliSense popup for you to see.

12-9-2008 8-31-59 PM

The output is animated, but here is the final state:

Where the Turtle stopped...

I spent about 15 to 20 minutes explaining the concept, and demonstrating it to her. I recommended that she try to draw an A, but she choose a square. I tried to let her reason it out as much as possible, and only provided guidance when I feared she might get frustrated. (The biggest problem was the parentheses, I had to keep reminding her. I had her execute it to see if it was doing what she expected. I even had her pretend to be a turtle while I gave her commands to move around the room. The funniest moment was when she asked why I kept saying to "run" it.

Tomorrow she wants to draw a triangle!

Posted 12-09-2008 8:42 PM by Christopher Bennage
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