Have you ever wondered how your electronics work? Maybe you’ve thought about how text messages are sent and received, or how the game you are playing understands what you want it to do. Every day, we download and play games and music, check class schedules, and keep in touch with our friends and family using social media applications, and without computer science, none of it would be possible. Computer science is more than building computers. A computer scientist specializes in making sure the software that runs on our computers and smartphones works. Computer scientists also make sure that their programs work together and communicate well.
Getting into computer science might take a lot of learning, but there are many resources available to help kids of all ages, even toddlers, get a head start on learning key concepts and about the math and logic behind the science! For true beginners or very small children, the first step will be helping them get familiar with typing, since most online programs and games need you to type in provided codes. Even with a lot of practice typing, inputting advanced code can be difficult. To get around this issue many games and programs use a method called blocking that allows you to grasp the basic concept of programming without worrying over syntax.
Before getting into the basics of programming, it is important to start training your brain to think like a computer, which means learning to think logically. Logic is key to computer science and programming, which is why programs that help you understand logic lay a good foundation for when you start learning code. Once you’ve a good understanding of how computers deal with commands and logic, you should advance to how they think – in binary code. Binary is important because it is the way computers store data.
Established programming languages can be a bit overwhelming, especially for beginners. That’s why programmers created Logo, a programming language designed specifically for those just starting out. In the same line of simplified programming languages is Quorum, a language that attempts to simplify commands so they are easy to remember. Another good first programming language is Karel. The Karel programming language is user-friendly and accessible for programmers of all levels. Like Logo, the language was created to ease learners into understanding how commands generate actions.
Learn More About Computer Science Through These Games:
Improve your typing skills with Dance Mat Typing – Dance Mat Typing is a program geared towards helping young children learn how to type. This interactive game teaches the mechanics of typing, as well as the keys they will be using. While the game itself is very slow, it is the perfect place to start or hone skills learned in school.
Understanding Blocks with Star Wars – Code.org’s Star Wars Block game helps students understand how commands flow in programming. The player controls BB-8 by attaching the block commands so they flow into one another to help the droid move and collect scrap.
LightBot – Lightbot is a fun, interactive game that teaches kids how to think logically by solving puzzles. The commands in Lightbot are simple and given by clicking on the correct icons in the proper order to make Lightbot walk, glow, turn, and jump. This game is geared towards younger students but is a useful tool to help older kids learn to think critically and logically.
Coding and Pattern Recognition with Manufactoria – If you want something more advanced you can challenge yourself with Manufactoria, a game that combines logic, and pattern recognition, two things essential to computer science. Manufactoria places students on a factory floor where the robots are running wild and challenges them to build testing machines to make sure only good robots leave the factory.
Binary Routing with Internet Mail Girl – Binary Routing with Internet Mail Girl is a good game for those just starting out learning about computer science and coding. Binary Routing teaches young coders how to translate numbers and letters into the binary language of ones and zeroes.
Code Avengers Data Representation – Code Avengers and use the Dr. DJ device to learn how to represent data using numerical values. The game, while easy to follow, gives players a solid grounding in logic and helps show how information is stored and recalled, an important concept for programming.
Turtle Academy – Using Logo, you can create complex designs by typing commands that control the cursor, or ‘turtle’. Turtle Academy helps children learn Logo by starting them off with simple commands that grow in complexity as they advance.
Quorum Computer Language – Astronomy Hour of Code helps you learn Quorum by typing increasingly complex commands into the prompt. Once enough language has been learned, the program guides you to build a virtual telescope based on images taken from the Skynet Robotic Telescope Network. A great game for those interested in learning a programming language as well as astronomy!
Karel – Karel uses simple commands like go, left, right, and get to help Karel the robot complete simple tasks.
CodePupil Introduction to HTML and CSS – CodePupil is a great game for helping young webpage developers learn the strengths of both HTML and CSS by starting players out with understanding the difference between the two languages, and how they work together to create web pages.