As you may have read about earlier in the week, I am hosting a computer camp in my home this week, teaching Kodu and Small Basic programming to my 9-year old son Alex and nine of his friends. Today we moved on from a first day of Kodu game programming to learning the basics of writing code with Small Basic. It was even hotter today – and that definitely did not help things. My goal was to get to something visual as quickly as possible but the campers needed a bit of foundation first. The kids had so much fun yesterday with Kodu, for some of them it was all they could think or talk about about – that made things a bit challenging but these kids are troopers!
We started out with learning about the Small Basic programming environment, and got familiar with the idea of statements, properties and how to write code and run it. We were also able to cover variables, conditionals, and loops with a number of exercises along the way where the campers experimented and tweaked their programs until they had something that might make the other campers laugh.
Then we got to the turtle. Small Basic has a “turtle drawing” mode where you can enter commands to make a turtle move and draw with just a little code.
Turtle.Show() Turtle.Move(20) Turtle.Turn(45) Turtle.Move(40)
That’s when the kids lit up. They saw that their actions with code made drawings on the screen. I then introduced the idea of the loop that they learned earlier and they started to make designs with repeated turns and moves. Once I showed them that you could add color and change the turtle’s speed, there was no stopping them. At that point, the decibel level in the room rose exponentially as the campers created programs and showed them to their friends. This was big fun! Take a look: