October 10, 2011

Learning To Program with jQuery

What is the best programming language to learn first? The right answer in today's world is Javascript - with jQuery.

Javascript is the most widely supported programming language in the world. It has readable algebraic syntax and simple typing that is forgiving for beginners. With its good support for closures, objects, and literals, it is an elegant little language with room to grow.

The main disadvantage of Javascript is its odd and unreliable GUI-oriented standard library, the HTML DOM. But jQuery has fixed that. With its efficient, robust design, jQuery has far outstripped all its rivals as the "version 2" DOM. Today, jQuery is approaching the universality of Javascript itself.

But is jQuery accessible to beginners?

This Fall I will be testing that question. Together with several Google friends, I'm teaching a learn-to-program course to a group of 17 sixth graders (we're doing it as part of the Citizen Schools program where every child in the Dorchester public middle school is required to participate in an after-school program).

The theme of the class is "web game programming" - a popular topic. We are using Javascript and jQuery on Chromebooks along with a small set of jQuery extensions including jquery-turtle, described below. We have ten hours to get the kids from "hello world" to creating their own games.

In our first two hours, we've explored the Javascript debugger and made our own webpages. Hour three is coming up. It will be our first exercise in making a simple game with some scaffolding.

Here is the example for class 3.

Posted by David at October 10, 2011 10:30 PM

Cool. I'm very curious to hear how it turns out.

Posted by: MikeMcc at February 4, 2012 10:44 PM
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