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June 30, 2016 / cdsmith

CodeWorld for Younger Ages!

Most readers know about CodeWorld, my Haskell-based programming environment that I’ve been using for middle school education for a number of years.  I recently wrote a thorough post about the project and its characteristic choices.  I’ve had a lot of success teaching middle school students, of ages 12 and up.  But why not younger?

There are challenges in teaching younger ages.  Spelling and typing skill is a real limitation.  If it takes kids several minutes to correctly type “solidCircle”, they aren’t going to be having a good time.  Even at the middle school level, students spend a good part of their first few months struggling to match up parentheses.  (So much so that I’ve just implemented “rainbow brackets”, which colors each nested set of parentheses a different color, in the editor in hopes of helping at least a little!)  These have always given me something of a lower bound for the ages at which I can hope to reach students.

This summer, though, as part of the Summer of Haskell project, Stefan Jacholke has been implementing a different programming environment for CodeWorld that solves many of these problems.  He’s just announced his first prototype!

If you need some inspiration, here’s an example of a program to draw a few bears.

This is all great timing, because next week, I’m meeting with my first elementary school to talk about setting up a CodeWorld activity for younger students.  With luck, I’ll have my guinea pigs to try this in the fall.

Enjoy!

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