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Dave Beans

Raspberry Pi

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When's the ideal age for kids to start programming with it..I have a 7 year old nephew, and I wondered if he'd be too young to learn something like python..

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I'm no child expert but seven seems OK, Python is pretty good for readability. What about Scratch? Seems to be popular for getting kids coding.

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My lad's primary school has just started a computer programming club for Year 5 and 6 children. It's really using them as guinea pigs to help determine how best to implement Michael Gove's requirement that children be taught programming from 2014. I'm helping out as a volunteer.

So far, we've looked at Lightbot 2.0, which is an online puzzle aimed at conveying the basics of programming, and Scratch, which allows the kids to define and animate 2D sprites. It teaches such concepts as input/output, loops, functions, if-then conditions, etc. Next we'll be looking at Kodu, Microsoft's 3D game programming environment for kids.

Edit: I do have a Raspberry Pi to play around with, but that seems more useful for controlling robots and the like. The Raspian OS does come with Scratch (and Python) though. I'd agree that Python's a good choice for more formal programming.

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7 is IMHO far too young! I wouldn't have been interested in that sort of nerdy stuff, until I was 12, then I loved it! :blink:

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7 is IMHO far too young! I wouldn't have been interested in that sort of nerdy stuff, until I was 12, then I loved it! :blink:

Was going to say the same, I think programming is one of those things you need to want to learn, it's actually rather difficult and can be extremely frustrating so if it's not something you really want to be doing it will more than likely no be fun.

The real problem now is that kids are now far removed from the actual inner workings of a computer and the underlying software. The reason I was interested in programming was simply that I wanted to get games to work on a very early PC, where I had to manage the memory manually (i.e. assign portions to various devices). When I started very early on even then I had to type something in the computer to get it to do something, sure it was a very basic command, but I was there on a command line asking the computer to run something, it made me aware of its existence and even if the furthest I ever got with programming a ZX81 was some sort of colour changing text via a GOTO statement I knew things were possible.

My nephew, who is 13 and loves his PS3 and computers in general, has no concept about programming and all he ever has to do to play a game is open a box and place a disc in a drive.

While it's a shame I'm thank full for it, it means my job as a programmer is pretty secure in to my old(er) age as the influx of your people in to the industry simply hasn't happened as was predicted. Thankfully the advancements in programming and software have slowed massively also, there is still plenty going on but when I started 15+ years ago every year there was a massive shift in technology to the point that if you didn't move jobs every 2 years you were obsolete.

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I had bought a Lego Mindstorms set for my son this Christmas as an introduction to programming. But I've taken it back because I've come to the conclusion he's just not ready yet (he's 9). Next year I think he will be.

You can do some incredibly cool stuff with it, this one impresses me immensely:

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I had bought a Lego Mindstorms set for my son this Christmas as an introduction to programming. But I've taken it back because I've come to the conclusion he's just not ready yet (he's 9). Next year I think he will be.

You can do some incredibly cool stuff with it, this one impresses me immensely:

That is awesome!

Makes my Lego car look a bit lame.

I think i'll stop driving it to work.

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That is awesome!

Makes my Lego car look a bit lame.

I think i'll stop driving it to work.

Badoooom... tish :D

I don't know why there aren't more of these kits in schools. The standard programming 'language' used is a modified version of labview, but as you progress to more complex models you can pretty much program it using any language.

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Was going to say the same, I think programming is one of those things you need to want to learn, it's actually rather difficult and can be extremely frustrating so if it's not something you really want to be doing it will more than likely no be fun.

The real problem now is that kids are now far removed from the actual inner workings of a computer and the underlying software. The reason I was interested in programming was simply that I wanted to get games to work on a very early PC, where I had to manage the memory manually (i.e. assign portions to various devices). When I started very early on even then I had to type something in the computer to get it to do something, sure it was a very basic command, but I was there on a command line asking the computer to run something, it made me aware of its existence and even if the furthest I ever got with programming a ZX81 was some sort of colour changing text via a GOTO statement I knew things were possible.

My nephew, who is 13 and loves his PS3 and computers in general, has no concept about programming and all he ever has to do to play a game is open a box and place a disc in a drive.

While it's a shame I'm thank full for it, it means my job as a programmer is pretty secure in to my old(er) age as the influx of your people in to the industry simply hasn't happened as was predicted. Thankfully the advancements in programming and software have slowed massively also, there is still plenty going on but when I started 15+ years ago every year there was a massive shift in technology to the point that if you didn't move jobs every 2 years you were obsolete.

There isn't really any need to understand the inner workings of a computer in order to program.

When I learnt to program I used the ZX Spectrum, Z80A assembly code. In order to use the code you have to understand how computers work. But nowadays that is less critical. It is always helpful to have some basic concepts, but it is not necessary for database programmers to know the inner workings of x86 chips in order to do their jobs. In fact this is what makes progress, in the respect that database programmers have enough to do spending their time doing database stuff and developing that without having to know detailed chip architecture as well.

It's a bit like driving a car. You don't need to know anything about the technology in order to get from A to B. Over time software tools will develop that remove people even more from the fundamental principles on which computers work, but the requirement for good logical thinking and structured thought will remain, even though it is exercised at a high rather than a low level.

The real issue is that you see what your nephew does with his PS3 as analogous to what you may have been doing in your teens coding/messing around with electronics. But it isn't. It's more like your equivalent of watching TV.

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Badoooom... tish :D

I don't know why there aren't more of these kits in schools. The standard programming 'language' used is a modified version of labview, but as you progress to more complex models you can pretty much program it using any language.

I bought a Lego Mindstorms kit for, ahem, my lad last year and it is indeed a wondrous thing. There are a couple of drawbacks with using it to teach programming in schools though: 1) You have to build your robot first, which is fun but takes precious time and 2) it's bloody expensive, and unfortunately out of the range of most school budgets.

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Any time is the right time. Snowflux is a Rπ enthusiast, ask him.

Ahem...

My lad's primary school has just started a computer programming club for Year 5 and 6 children. It's really using them as guinea pigs to help determine how best to implement Michael Gove's requirement that children be taught programming from 2014. I'm helping out as a volunteer.

So far, we've looked at Lightbot 2.0, which is an online puzzle aimed at conveying the basics of programming, and Scratch, which allows the kids to define and animate 2D sprites. It teaches such concepts as input/output, loops, functions, if-then conditions, etc. Next we'll be looking at Kodu, Microsoft's 3D game programming environment for kids.

Edit: I do have a Raspberry Pi to play around with, but that seems more useful for controlling robots and the like. The Raspian OS does come with Scratch (and Python) though. I'd agree that Python's a good choice for more formal programming.

I think I'd keep the RPi in reserve till they're a bit older than primary age and can do a bit of electronics. Unless you're using it for control purposes, I don't really see any great advantage in using it to learn programming. I'm sure some would disagree with me on this though.

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Ahem...

I think I'd keep the RPi in reserve till they're a bit older than primary age and can do a bit of electronics. Unless you're using it for control purposes, I don't really see any great advantage in using it to learn programming. I'm sure some would disagree with me on this though.

Alternatives?

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I bought a Lego Mindstorms kit for, ahem, my lad

:D I know what you mean

Alternatives?

If you've got 250 quid burning a hole in your pocket Lego Mindstorms. I think I might drop the pretense of buying it for the nipper and just get it for myself.

I love this:

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Arduino, simple starter kit with some Led's and sensors.

I think dad will be in the shed wiring up electronics most weekends! I think Mr Snowflux has got it about right!

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A few observations here:-

- Why do you need a raspberry pi to program in Python? Why not just do it on a PC? What is the raspebrry pi for exactly? Surely whatever it does can be mimicked or virtualised in a regular PC, tablet or laptop. Why buy a tricky piece of hardware that teachers will never be able to work out how to use and a tiny fraction of kids will get anywhere with even in the best case scenario? The whole thing seems to be more about wide-eyed nostalgia from middle-aged geeks than anything coherent in terms of education.

- Opportunities for programmers in this country were wiped out in the large part 10-12 years ago by the combined impact of the dot com crash and outsourcing to India. This is why there are few coming through now. Unless we reach wage parity with India, I don't see how this is going to change. Broadly speaking, programming jobs involve incredibly long hours for very little money, unless you are the very cream of the crop (a tiny minority).

- Programming does not help you understand how a computer works, unless it is in assembler. Even then it won't tell you how physically it works - that's electronics, not computer science.

Happy to be corrected on any of the above. Only telling it how I see it :)

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