Programming education tools for kids that are fun
Jim Bates | On 24, Nov 2013
Exciting programming education tools for kids that have been disguised as games!
There is no question there is a rapidly growing sector in the tech space focused on learning technology. One of the unique micro-niches within this space is focused on programming education tools. The following is an article co-written by Jim Bates of Winners Win and Natasha Lomas of TechCrunch. Here we discusses three new tech startups that are focused on building awesome games for kids that are both fun and educational.
Dan Shapiro’s Robot Turtles showed there is a serious appetite for kids’ games that aren’t just fun to play but that also teach kids core coding principles. The exciting part about this new wave of programming education tools for kids, especially where Robot Turtles is concerned, is that they teach in an almost subliminal manner. The game not only utilizes a deep-seeded learning process but, according to the kids who have played it, is a lot of fun!
Instead of seeking funding for his new startup through conventional sources, Shapiro decided to go the way of crowdfunding using Kickstarter. To give you some idea of how willing parents are to spend money on educational tools for their kids, Don had an original funding campaign for Robot Turtles set at $25,000. Within 30 days, Shapiro raised more than $630,000. A new Kickstarter record for not only programming education tools for kids, but all educational tools to date.
With that kind of Kickstarter community response, it’s pretty likely we’re set to see a wave of programming education tools and toys designed to do cool and fun stuff. To wit, meet Primo: a physical programming interface that teaches children programming logic while they control the movements of an Arduino-powered robot.
All of Primo’s electronics are concealed inside wooden boxes, so from the child’s point of view they’re playing with blocks, a board and a cute little robot. But as they snap the colored pieces (instruction blocks) into the board (the physical programming interface), they are building up a set of instructions that the wheeled bot will execute when they push the big red button. So they get to see their program come to life as the bot moves around the room and navigates around household objects.
The instruction blocks comprise four different colored pieces: forward, to move the bot forward; left; right; and the green circular function block. The function block adds a little more complexity to the basic instruction set as it calls the last line of blocks on the board every time it’s called. Aka it’s a sub-routine.
The function element, used in conjunction with the setting of longer physical paths for the robot to complete, then requires kids to use logical thinking to build up longer sequences of instructions to complete the challenge. And that’s the subtle learning it’s hoping to achieve.
It’s certainly a lot more basic than Kano’s new DIY “make a computer” game. This is another game that lives inside the growing niche of programming learning tools focused at kids. Rather than “throwing them into the deep end”, Kano’s idea is to offer coding in baby steps for four-to-seven year old children.
“Skills are mastered gradually. Mountains are climbed one step at a time. Think of Primo as the very first step in a child’s programming education tools “toolbox”. Primo provides the very basic ABC of programming logic,” says Primo’s U.K.-based (Italian) creators.
Primo aims to raise £35,000 to get the kit into the marketplace. Those who get in on Primo’s Kickstarter campaign can get a fully assembled kit for £160 or a do-it-yourself version for £135. They’ve already managed to raise more than £5,500 since the campaign kicked off on Friday (11-22-13) with 27 days left to run. If it hits its funding target, they’re aiming to ship to backers next August!
Jim Bates & Natasha Lomas
As always, thanks for reading!
If you have a comment about any of these great products or about programming education tools in general, please leave it below… we would love to hear from you!