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sofatutor magazine Teacher

An app, a website or a game: Show your students how to not only use these things, but how to program them yourself.

What do you have to be able to do for that?

To do this, you have to master one of the common programming languages ​​such as C ++, Java or Python. In order to introduce pupils in a playful way, a little more creativity is often required, because not every person wants to learn programming voluntarily right away.

Why is learning to code important?

There are two aspects to consider, the educational policy and the personal aspect. In terms of educational policy, Germany has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to developing the media skills of schoolchildren. In March 2015, a joint application was submitted by the CDU / CSU and the SPD: “Promote media skills by strengthening digital education and overcome digital divisions”. As a result of a technical discussion, education experts determined that not only schoolchildren have to learn how to use PCs and the Internet safely, but also their teachers. The ICILS study also attested that German eighth graders only had mediocre computer and information-related skills in an international comparison. Many teachers also know why the students only shone in the midfield.

Free access for teachers

Of course, it is also about the personal development of the students: They should be given the opportunity to use digital educational materials and programs and to learn how to use them. In addition to fixed education plans in the federal states, this also requires the correct motivation of the learners.

How can you get children interested in programming?

We took advice from a teacher who, among other things, publishes digital teaching materials under a Creative Commons license. The German and religion teacher and media studies blogger Tobias Hübner knows his way around the world of digital education. He has been committed to the “digital literacy” of schoolchildren for years and has already received many awards for this, such as the Dieter Baacke Prize 2014. Hübner recommends, “I have had very good experiences with integrating programming into lessons in a playful way. That goes z. B. very good with the programming language 'Scratch'. In a teaching project on narration in various media, for example, pupils should convert the first page of their favorite book into a computer game. First they painted a picture and then they used Scratch to try to create simple animations. Some students were really enthusiastic about it and then continued programming at home and tried out the other functions of the programming language. If you can convey this 'aha experience', a lot has already been achieved. ”You can therefore also integrate the programming tools and programming beyond the computer science lessons into the everyday learning of the students and work across disciplines.

But isn't it enough if the students can use WhatsApp?

German teacher Tobias Hübner sees it differently. He says: “It depends on whether you want to raise children to be consumers or producers. To consume, knowledge of the operation is completely sufficient. However, if you want children to be able to design their media environment themselves, a little more effort is required. I think no student should graduate from high school without a basic understanding of how a computer and the internet work. Not everyone has to become a programmer, but everyone should know that there are programmers and many lines of code behind software. And that works best when you've written at least a small program yourself. There is good reason why we teach children not only to read, but also to write. "

Examples of programming tools in the classroom

We see it the same way, so we have put together a few free entry-level programs with which children can learn to program in a playful way.

  • Scratch: This application is probably the best known. Here you can program videos, games and pictures with standardized programming blocks. These are sorted according to the action pattern. The exercises are in German, but the example results and the community function only work in English.
  • Blockly Games: Blockly uses the same principle as Scratch or Turtle Art, except that learning success is achieved through different games: the learner has to move a figure along a Google Map or shoot an opposing figure in a pond.
  • Open Roberta Lab: With the beta version of the Fraunhofer Institute's Open Roberta Lab, EV3 robots can be programmed in the cloud. It supports the first programming steps up to the programming of intelligent robots with sensors and capabilities. The site is in German, programming is done in the Fraunhofer Institute NEPO's own programming language. As with Scratch, you work with a graphical programming environment and arrange the commands using drag and drop.
  • Greenfoot: Here you get to know the Java programming language in an object-oriented manner. Greenfoot creates customizable environments called micro-worlds. Gender, age or other factors can be individualized. In addition to the free software, the Java Development Kit must also be installed.
  • Alice: As with Greenfoot, Alice is based on an object-oriented programming language. You create computer animations from 3D models using drag and drop. With a little practice, these can be expanded into complex programs. Alice is not related to any particular development environment, so there is no need to familiarize yourself with any particular syntax.
  • Code.org: Code.org is the third example in this line of visual programming. It is partially translated into German and has well-known, animated little helpers, such as the Angry Birds or the princesses from "Frozen".

other tools that kids can use to learn to code

There are other tools below that make programming entertaining and instructive:

  • Tynker: Tynker is course based. Children can learn to program in a playful way at different levels of difficulty. They can build computers and learn to draw or create games and videos themselves. Tynker also works on tablets, but is currently only available in English.
  • Code Monkey: The online game CodeMonkey teaches programming in a playful way, as children try to collect as many bananas as possible with a monkey. The game is in English. There is a free demo version.
  • CoderDojo: A CoderDojo is a free programming club for children and teenagers from 5 to 17 years of age. The meetings of specialists and children and young people interested in programming take place all over the world. We have already organized a CoderDojo. If a child enjoys programming, they can also register with Jugend hackt and take part in hackathons.
  • MIT AppInventor: MIT has set out to develop a tool for programming apps. The cloud-based web program App Inventor works without any further installation. Children can then test their own app on their own mobile phone. However, the App Inventor only works in English.
  • Light Bot 2.0(by Armor Games): The little Light Bot is a robot that can light up blue tiles. That is the aim of this game. The instructions are in English, but a lot of the work is done with simple symbols so that children without knowledge of English can find their way around quickly.
  • Code Combat: In the online game Code Combat, children move the hero using codes and can solve exciting tasks in the process. The game has a comic design and is in German.

Further information on programming tools is also available on the Informatik-Tools website. One site where you can learn Java, SQL or Pascal without installing any additional software is the Programming Wiki.

Have you already used programming tools in class to familiarize your students with programming? What are your experiences?

Cover picture: Pressmaster / shutterstock

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