Have you ever wondered how the game knows you hit the wall, need to keep moving something, or saves your progress? Children in the United Kingdom will be learning to code from September 2014 and will be being taught the answers to all those questions. The issue is that their teachers missed out on learning the fundamentals of how to program a computer so need some assistance.
These projects were part of a commission from the University of York to help teach children how to code by starting from fundamentals within an environment that children can understand. The projects go from teaching the fundamentals of input and output and basic structures within programs to reading and writing to RFID tags.
All of these projects run on the Raspberry Pi, which is a lightweight computer that allows people to not only program but also easily design hardware. The innermost workings are left exposed making it even more valuable as a resource letting children see how what they've just coded works.
If you're a teacher and feel that you could benefit from these resources for use in the classroom then read more below, or contact me to discuss your needs.
If you haven't heard of Flappy Bird and the craze it became then you've missed out in life. It's the very simple, one control play of this game that makes it a good starting point for young coders to use. It also only uses one non-standard image meaning all resources are pre-loaded onto the Pi or classroom PC.
Objects and Classes are addressed as well as event handlers and listeners, which could go more in-depth for an older audience. This is all in addition to the basics of variables, repetition, conditional statements, data structures and algorithms.
Through a mix of practical and on-paper exercises, all people can learn the fundamentals of programming as well as develop a working replica of a popular game in half a day, or broken into several smaller sessions at a school.
The big project for working with the Raspberry Pi in Scratch is the Character Maze Game, where children can create a character in the character editor on one Pi, save it to an RFID card and then use it on another Pi to make their way through a maze they've built.
Children not only develop new skills with hardware but also get to develop what they've already learnt about coding from the previous project. Children are provided with a bare-bones interface, a Python API and a specification for what the game should be able to do. From here, with guidance of in class activities, they can develop their own interactive game.
The hardware used for this can also be used to simulate other systems, with the RFID tags representing real-world objects. Thanks to the easy to access GPIO ports on the Raspberry Pi children can learn about serial interfacing by connecting the hardware themselves and seeing what happens if it is connected incorrectly.