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.