How Meta: A Review of Games that Teach Programming

Learning to program in Logo

There is clearly a need to infuse programming literacy into the Common Core. Disciplines that traditionally reside outside of the domain of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are slowly becoming more technical as the conduit between practitioner and audience migrates to the Internet and mobile devices. Within STEM, those who acquire programming skills are at advantage now that datasets are growing more complicated (e.g., The Brain Initiative). As a case study, consider one of my friends, a postdoctoral fellow studying parasites at Rockefeller University. She spent her evenings this summer steeped in a Python programming language course so that she could learn how to integrate the many software bundles that are now required for her to analyze data. Another friend is a full time programmer for a molecular biology lab at Columbia University. And yet another is a programmer working as a technical designer for the fashion industry. Few of us have to look far to find an acquaintance that is a programmer or had to learn to code to support a non-technical field.

Learning to code is currently a long and difficult path, but it doesn’t have to be. With proper instruction and good tools, programming should be no more complicated than learning a language. What if the act of learning to program was a game itself? Rob Lockhart reviews the current state of affairs in teaching kids to program using games. He also touches on the other tools that teach programming to kids, but the list is not intended to be comprehensive.

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