Teaching My Daughter To Code, Part II: Invasion of the Daleks

Second part of my endeavours to write a computer game with my daughter

A few days ago, I have written about starting to teach my daughter some programming by inventing and implementing a game with Greenfoot and Java. Here’s the second part of that journey.

This time, I had thought a little more in advance about what might be a good thing to tackle next. Putting floors in, so that the Doctor would just walk on those levels (and ladders to go up and down)? Or other moves: jumping, ducking, etc?

I decided the most interesting thing would be to put some opponents in – other actors that you could run away from, and who could catch you. With the Doctor, it’s pretty obvious who that should be: the Daleks! (They are the Doctor’s prime enemy, after all.)

When I came home from work, I suggested this to Sophie. Happily, she agreed.

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Teaching My Daughter To Code

First party of a journey of writing a Doctor Who video game in Java with my 9-year-old daughter.

[Update: part II, part III and part IV of this story are available now.]
[Update 2: Belorussian translation available now, provided by Webhostinggeeks.]

Yesterday, my daughter Sophie asked me to show her how to write a computer game. She is nine. (Well, only a few weeks away from being ten – at this age, a year still matters.) She has never written any code before. Now, there’s a challenge, if I ever saw one.

I am a computer scientist, and one of our projects is Greenfoot – a programming environment designed to teach kids (and older students) to code with Java. So far, that has all been part of my research work. Research into programming education, tool design, etc. I have used Greenfoot with kids (mostly about 15 years old), but more often I do presentations and workshops for teachers.

I have often wondered how low in age you could take Greenfoot. It’s Java, after all, not Logo. 15-year-olds clearly works. But 10 year olds? We don’t know.

So I told Sophie that we’d start making a game tomorrow. That was yesterday. So today was the day. Afterwards, I thought it might be interesting to try to record the process we’re going through — see what happens.

So here is my (hopefully continuing) diary of coding with my daughter… (Our results, live demo and source code, are at the bottom.)

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The Pitfalls of Java as a First Programming Language – A Response

Two computing practitioners from an Ada shop in New York, Dr. R.B.K Dewar and Dr. E. Schonberg, who are also professors emeritus at New York University, have recently slammed Java as a first programming language. Their article has received quite a bit of attention and created wide discussion.

I think they are completely barking up the wrong tree.

Dewar and Schonberg report some observations, and than jump to conclusions that are not in any way supported by the observations or their argument.

Specifically, they state that today’s students are lacking certain skills (low level programming and formal methods), and then go on to blame the use of Java as an introductory language for this problem.

To state my conclusion upfront: They describe a badly designed curriculum, and then blame one programming language for the education’s problems.

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