May 01, 2010

Computer Club

I have started teaching a computer club for middle-schoolers as a test run. Five kids, grades 5-8, all with some experience programming in Lego or Scratch or something else, now learning Javascript. I want to teach them jQuery and graphics, and it is going to be pretty challenging stuff.

Thanks to the ideas from readers of this blog, I am collecting together materials for them that might turn into a book someday. Here it is: Learning to Program in Javascript.

The guinea pigs this time around are all boys. The next time around I will teach Piper and her group of girl friends.

Posted by David at 09:31 AM | Comments (1)

May 11, 2010

What SAT Stands For

Today was an MCAS day for my kids (Massachusetts's standardized testing at school). A little discussion of such tests lead to one of the conversations that my kids hate to have with me:

Anthony: "What does SAT stand for?"

Me: "SAT Aptitude Test."

Anthony: "Hm, but then what does SAT stand for?"

Me: "SAT Aptitude Test.... S.A.T. S - SAT, A - Aptitude, T - Test."

Anthony: "But why SAT?"

Me: "It tests your aptitude for taking the SAT."

Anthony: "I'm just going to look it up on the Internet."

(By the way, Anthony, it's true. Here it is on the Internet, right here.)

Posted by David at 10:32 PM | Comments (1)

May 28, 2010

Wiki Javascript at

I have spent a few days teaching kids (a handful of 5th-8th graders) to program in Javascript. Teaching is hard. My conclusions:

  • Kids like graphics. Drawing simple paths in SVG is a big hit.
  • You need to take a little time to learn basic HTML before Javascript.
  • The most frustrating thing for kids is getting their junkware-infested laptops to behave.
  • Getting set up with a plaintext editor to write code is a steep climb.

I am rethinking my little curriculum. We need a more gradual path that steps through very simple basics before jumping into more exciting things.

To let the kids program directly online I have posted a collaborative learning-to-program site at that is the simplest possible solution I could think of.

It is wiki in spirit: it is a self-editable website that hosts a syntax coloring programming editor and a bunch of Javascript examples. It is a single shared collaborative space, and it has no access controls to jump through. The kids had a terrific time sharing code with each other and stealing each others' ideas.

Try it if you like. Etiquette and explanation here.

Posted by David at 08:43 PM | Comments (4)