Teaching Kids To Code

Posted in Conferences, Companies, Development, Science on May 30, 2008

Google Tech Talks
March, 7 2008


Learning to code has become both more important and more complicated in the last decade. We need to make it attractive and easy again.

Most western countries currently experience a shortage of skilled computing professionals in the employment market. We have seen a similar problem in the 1990s, but this time the situation is
different: While the problem in the 90s was university capacity (we just couldn't educate enough people quickly enough), this time around it is enrolment: Universities have the capacity, but not enough students sign up to study technical, computing related subjects, such as computer science or software engineering.

The real problem lies before university: at school age, students decide against computing as a subject, because it is perceived as geeky, tedious, intellectually not challenging, and most of all
boring. At the same time, programming in schools is on a sharp decline.

We need to counter this trend by bringing programming back into schools, and make it an engaging, challenging, relevant and enjoyable activity. To be successful, the public sector, academia and business should work together to make this happen.

At the University of Kent, we have developed two successful development environments, named BlueJ and Greenfoot, and educational material to address these challenges. In this presentation, we will discuss both, with the main focus on Greenfoot, a system for beginners to learn Java programming through development of interactive graphical applications.

Greenfoot and its associated materials can be used to teach programming in schools, computer clubs, or to your own children. Kids develop computer games, and -- almost as an aside -- learn object-oriented programming in Java.

In this talk, I will present the software, strategies for learning of programming, and the benefits and drawback of Java as a first language.

Speaker: Michael Kölling, Computing Laboratory, University  Michael Kölling is the lead designer of the BlueJ and Greenfoot programming environments. Both environments are designed for beginners to learn the basics of Java, and are widely used by schools and universities all over the world. Michael is also the founder of the Sun Center of Excellence in Object-Oriented Education at the University of Kent. He works as a Senior Lecturer in the Computing Laboratory at the University of Kent, where he teaches Java to undergraduate and postgraduate students, and is co-author of a successful Java textbook, "Objects First With Java."

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