Hi DanIt’s essential that children are given the opportunity and access not just to learn about computers and coding but to really understand it. If my daughter is being taught maths so that the methods and numbers are unpicked and she understands why numbers work they way they do so she can apply that understanding with any set of numbers then surely the same benefits apply when it comes to computers/coding.I am concerned that even though computers/technology touch nearly every aspect of our lives there is still a ‘mystique’ about them or coding is seen as a ‘dark art’ it must be mainstreamed in education if we are to encourage our kids to learn and be turned on to the possibilities to then go on to choosing a career path that sees them create the next generate of technology or use their knowledge in engineering, science or research (areas that need a boost of entrants). My son has just started secondary school having only had a limited experience of working with code and it frustrates me to think that this may continue.Even if your kids are lucky enough to go to an extremely well resourced school their experience and exposure to computers and coding depends entirely on how adept the teacher is with it. Even then I’m willing to bet that its ‘surface’ learning rather than a deeper understanding. Too often lack of resources is used as an excuse for not exposing the children to this kind of stuff at all which makes practical solutions such as yours a total win:win.I want my children to ask why? when they are being taught, and get past the surface learning that provides limited value and does not give them the tools to learn and acquire knowledge and skills as they move through their school years. Using outside of the box methods to teach them a different perspective on such a critical part of their lives & futures should surely be the top of the list.I hope this isn’t too ‘soap box’ but its something I feel very strongly about.
My friends at the design studio Burning Red are doing a weekly blog task for their newsletter Red Matter and asked me to do this week’s topic which is…
The one thing I can’t live without
My name’s Dan Bridge, I’m a programmer and I spend a LOT of time in front of computers, laptops and tablets. I poke, prod and punch numbers, words and functions into them to make them do useful interesting things. Sometimes they won’t do what I want. That usually means I haven’t told them what I wanted them to do clearly enough.
In order to work out what I want computers to do, here’s the thing I couldn’t live without: pen and paper.
Most people think programmers just sit at machines and transfer code thoughts straight from their head into the computer but everything I do I usually sketch out on paper first. So that notebooks are indispensable for me. They let me test things out, order my thinking and add lots of weird doodles and arrows
It’s the one thing I couldn’t live without – work wise!
The last week my twitter has been pretty active since I launched the Craft Computer Club Kickstarter but one retweet caught my attention last night and it was from someone called Dino Dini.
I recognised the name straight away as the author of my all time favourite Amiga football game, Kick Off 2. I spent many many hours playing that game when I was “revising” for my A-Levels. It’s one of many computing experiences that inspired me to study Computer Science and want to be a programmer.
So I replied to the Retweet asking if it was the same Dino that wrote the game (you never know on the Internet) and received this response:
— Dino Dini (@dndn1011) February 17, 2014
And then something magical happened that’s making me smile as I write this, I received a generous backer notification. It was from Dino and it came with a wonderful message of support and an offer to help if he could.
Today I’m going to write to Dino and see what we could do.
I’ll let you know if anything, Kicks Off (sorry, it’s a poor pun but couldn’t resist)
Join Our Mission To Give Kids Coding Superpowers
Our Kids Coding Kickstarter got off to a good start but we need more pledges if we’re going to succeed.
Our project will teach children age 5-10 coding basics and you get to send a kit to your school at the same time!
So it’s time to bring out the big guns and show how much I want this project to succeed.
To do that, I’m going to give away my entire computer and gaming collection which is basically a mini computing museum. It includes things that are going to be tough to part with, such as the machines I learned to code on. But if it helps this kids project succeed I’m fine with that.
I’m prepared to make a sacrifice and I hope you will too and back the project – only backers will get notified of the retro rewards when they’re available.
So have a look at some of swag:
I’m going to create some special pledges where you can pickup one of the following:
(ps. I think there’s more so will update this list today)
- Atari 2600 – Original Heavy Sixer version, boxed, immaculate, with letter from Cherry Distribution
- Atari 7800 – Boxed
- Atari 400 – boxed with manuals
- Atari 800 – with manuals
- Atari 800XL
- Atari 130XE
- Atari 520STE – Discovery Pack, Boxed with manuals
- Atari 1040STFM
- Amstrad – GX-4000 games console (I know!)
- Commodore 64C – Judgement Day Box
- Commodore 128 – boxed with manuals
- Commodore Amiga 500 – boxed with manuals
- ZX Spectrum – boxed
- PC Engine – Mint boxed Japanese model with RGB scart modification
- Sega Master System – boxed with Hang On
- Sega Megadrive – boxed with Sonic and boxed Master System Converter
- Sega Megadrive II – boxed with Sonic 2
- Sega Dreamcast – boxed
- Nintendo NES, Mint boxed Turtles edition
- Nintendo SNES, boxed UK Super Mario World edition
- Nintendo Gamecube, Mint boxed
- MSX – Boxed Toshiba 64K HX-10
- Xbox – 1 & 360 (version 1 is hard modified and full of emulators, e.g. mameox, uae, snes)
- X-Arcade Dual Tank Stick – with xbox 1 connectors for above xbox
- 3 Original Nintendo Gameboy (1 Yellow)
- Pocket NeoGeo with Metal Slug, Samurai Showdown all boxed
- Rockstar Money Clip and Stickers for GTA: Vice City promotion
update 2: Here’s the Atari and Cherry Leisure Letter
Update 3: There’s also a Smash TV PCB
Plus there’s a stack of boxed games, all in great condition
So, if you’ve read this far (thank you!) you’re hopefully wondering how you can get some of this great computing and gaming history and help our little kids coding project!
Over this weekend I’m going to work out what packs work best as rewards and update via the Kickstarter.
That is make them available only to backers so you’ll need to back the project at least $1/£1 (hopefully more, think of the children 🙂 – and that means you’ll get notified first as they’re limited ! you can upgrade to the retro rewards when they’re up.
This is my twitter account if you’ve any questions or just want to say hello http://twitter.com/danfbridge.
Okay, this is going to hurt but it’s worth it!
Thank you for your support,
Dan and the Craft Computer Club Gang.
You can see a few more items on my instagram, might have scroll down a bit 😉 http://instagram.com/danfbridge
Can you tell us a bit about the Craft Computer Club?
The Craft Computer Club teaches children from age 5 upwards the fundamentals of computing and programming. It combines a fun book with additional online help and materials for parents. It contains simple to follow illustrated guides to the modern Computer, mobiles and tablets, the Internet and of course coding. It’s basically a fun book for kids with a ton of online support for mums and dads that might not know where to start with it all!
You’re a software engineer why are you using glue and string to teach kids coding?
Writing an app would have been really easy. The problem was more for me as a parent, I don’t know about you but there’s plenty of things my kids love on the screen and I wanted to make something that we could do together, round the table. And I also wanted to pass on my computing experience as it’s generally really helpful for problem solving – whether you want to write code or not.
I sat down at my kitchen table to work out how to do that and I realised it was covered with craft materials – paper, glue, string, glitter, crayons etc. It seemed obvious then to use the tools my children use all the time, ones that they’re confident with and ones that don’t need a computer or tablet.
So can they actually learn to code without a computer?
Absolutely. Just to back that up, in the long distant past when I was studying for my a-levels and degree, computers were quite rare in the classroom, so we always designed programs on paper first. This lets the kids have fun and lets me develop activities that help with something called Computational Thinking which is helpful to develop ways to solve problems. This is useful for children in lots of subjects, not just programming, but especially the STEM subjects.
Can children from age 5 really learn this stuff?
Definitely and it’s evidenced by a pilot I did last year. The foundation of the project was a 6 week Computer Club I did as a STEM ambassador at Mynedd Cynffig Infant School in Bridgend. I taught a group of 20 six year old girls how computers are made, what the main parts inside do, the difference between files and programs, how programs work (we wrote one together) and how computers can only use numbers to draw pictures on screen. We finished with a trip to see the Raspberry Pi being made at Sony Pencoed.
How did you know what material to focus on?
Including my own Computer Science degree and nearly 20 years development experience I also spent a few years researching the work of people like Seymour Papert who invented Logo the first child friendly programming language.
Actually costs less than a new video game! It was important that we make it available to as many people as we can so we’re running a Kickstarter and if we reach our goal you can get a copy of the book and a years worth of online help and support for £15!
You can see it in action on the video too and we’d love you back it and join our club.
Year of Code and its spokeswoman Lottie Dexter got off to a shaky start last week . It also trode on the toes of a few that were already working in this area, notably Emma Mulqueeny (7 reasons why year of code is just AM Dram) and Computing At School.
Ok, so there is entrepreneurial motive behind Year of Code which has precedent for a more market focused goal. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing – if handled with empathy toward the initial trail blazers. Competition allied to good causes can affect change quickly. In this case, it’s to provide materials that allow a young generation to exploit the incredible technology they have, literally in their hands. For my part, that’s a good thing.
I wanted to post some additional info on Year Of Code for two reasons.
Firstly, I’ve a vested interest in this area as I’ve just launched a Kickstarter that teaches primary age children computing fundamentals – quick plug, please back and share it 😉 https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/inpractice/craft-computer-club-a-crafty-way-to-inspire-little/posts
Secondly, I spent a last night swapping tweets with one of its board advisors Dan Crow (uk.linkedin.com/in/dancrow) and Miles Berry who’s chair of NAACE and Principle Lecturer of Computing at Roehampton University (uk.linkedin.com/in/mgberry).
We were nerding out over languages and elegance – I know, engineers are a riot right! – and the topic turned to Apple’s HyperCard (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HyperCard). HyperCard, as I’ve written a few times, holds a special place in my development history. It’s also a bit of a shibboleth within software engineering. Turns out Dan was the last engineer manager on Apple’s Hypercard and he also tried to give it a new lease of life when he was at Google:
— Dan Crow (@crowquine) February 11, 2014
HyperCard is an important milestone in Computing languages as it’s one of a few that understood and communicated a clear and relevant ‘metaphor’ through which the user intuitively understood how to interact with it. Something that ‘straight’ languages suffer from. It’s set in a clearly defined context and it’s obvious. Look at some PHP code and it might not be obvious what’s happening – btw, I like PHP a lot!
For me, the fact that Dan was part of that historic project bodes well for the Year of Code team. They have substance behind the PR and if ‘code’ is the poster child that brings Computational Thinking back into the bedrooms of children again, I’m all for it.
Btw, I’m not sure I mentioned my Kickstarter 😉 it’s a craft book that teaches Primary age children Computing fundamentals and you can check it out here. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/inpractice/craft-computer-club-a-crafty-way-to-inspire-little
New learning product gets computers and coding onto the primary play table
(Cardiff, February 11th, 2014) Cardiff-based Dad and former Silicon Valley software developer, Dan Bridge, this week launches his thirty day funding drive on Kickstarter for “Craft Computer Club”, a new product set to revolutionise the way in which computer skills – specifically computational thinking and coding – are taught to primary age children, comprising a colourful craft book with online support resources.
A father of two, Dan acknowledged that tactile engagement with educational materials was critical in successful early years learning. Rather than develop a passive, screen-based product, he went back to basics, focusing on the things his own children love, teaching modern ideas through traditional methods – scissors, paper and glue. Dan explains:
“I initially developed The Craft Computer Club for my 5 year old daughter, who, like all other children, loves to cut and stick. As friends and family asked if they could use it too, I realised I could be onto something. My aim was to make it easy for anyone to use and I have designed particularly for parents who may not feel technically confident, but want to help children adopt twenty first century skills in a way that doesn’t involve simply sitting in front of a screen.
“As the UK Government launches initiatives such as the Year of Code and shows a firm commitment to making computational thinking a critical part of our national curriculum, I’m excited by how much this product could achieve. It’s simple, accessible and fun to use. It has a place at every play table.
Through his work as a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) ambassador, Dan piloted the scheme over six weeks with a primary class of twenty girls.
“During the pilot, the girls learnt about the internal components of a computer, making their own models and moving on to games teaching them aspects of computing such how algorithms work and other facets of programming. By the end, they had a fantastic grasp on the workings of a computer, and how they relate to programs and programming. I took them to see Sony’s Raspberry Pi being made at the end of the course – it was incredible hearing six year olds point to a Pi and say ‘that’s the CPU, it runs programs’.”
Further pilot kits have been distributed to teachers, whilst workshops at GameCity 2013 proved extremely popular. GameCity organiser Iain Simons said:
“There’s been a huge amount of talk about making coding accessible, but I don’t think there’s been anything quite like Craft Computer Club for injecting those ideas with material joy. We welcomed Craft Computer Club to the GameCity festival in 2013, where they instantly became one of the most popular elements. It’s a beautiful mix – code and craft; putting the complexity, fun and ideas of computing directly into people’s hands.”
Further endorsement has come from Stuart Ball, Microsoft’s Partners in Learning UK Programme Manager:
“These resources are ideal for young children when they are at their most creative. It is the most perfect way to help them develop their computational thinking processes and prepare them for a future that has technology in every aspect of their lives. Brilliant stuff! When can we have more?”
Dan is currently in discussion with the USA’s National Centre for Women and Information Technology, who are interested in showcasing the product at their 2014 toys and games summit.
You can find out more about The Craft Computer Club and their quest for £35,000 in investment funding on Kickstarter.
About Dan Bridge
Dan Bridge is the founder of educational developer http://inpractice.org which helps universities to manage their student programmes and the creator of Craft Computer Club.
A computer science graduate, Dan has worked as a software developer, both here and in the USA since 1996, managing product development teams. He is a keen advocate of technical education, helping start- ups with technical advice and volunteering time with schools as a STEM (Science,Technology, Engineering and Maths) ambassador and girl’s computing advocate.
As a Dad, Dan understands first-hand how important it is for all children, but particularly girls, to have early, positive experiences with STEM. The Craft Computer was designed with them in mind, using England’s new KS1 and KS2 Computing curriculum as a guide.
Director, Run Jump Fly Ltd.
Tel: 01446 796905/ 07587 172691
Today we’re going to do something special and it will look a little like this.
Year of Code announced:
Michael Gove and George Osborne, backed up by several UK tech luminaries, have dubbed 2014 the “Year of Code” in a campaign costing £500,000.
In the campaign’s promotional video, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne explained how the campaign wants to “make sure that kids in our schools are not just consumers of technology and computer programs,” and that they shouldn’t just “know how to open up Word and PowerPoint; they also need to understand how those computer programs are put together”.
[Full article here on Computing.co.uk]