We teach children to make games

    I want to talk about the non-profit project Kodabra. Here we teach children to program and create games.



    Background

    Somehow, it came to the realization that the three processes bring maximum pleasure to the founders in this life - programming, teaching others and communicating with children. Thoughts began to rage actively about the school for children, and active actions began in January 2014. We were inspired by such projects as codeclub.org.uk , code.org , cs-first.com . And we decided to use their experience and organize free lessons on the basis of existing schools, orphanages and other children's institutions.

    Explicit emphasis was placed on the motivation of children. We teach them how to make cartoons, computer games, and create in the digital universe.

    Choosing an audience and tools

    Communication with friends on Facebook revealed a clear interest of parents with children of primary school age, who were extremely positive about the idea. Therefore, we decided to try with the smallest, right from the first class. Scratch , a visual programming language specifically designed for children,

    was chosen as the programming language . Firstly, it is available online and does not require installation of anything. Secondly, it is an integrated environment, you draw the code and immediately execute it, you can immediately see the result. Thirdly, it is focused on creating cartoons and games, it already has a library of sprites and backgrounds, as well as special “game” operators, such as “turn if crashed into a wall”. The code at the same time looks something like this.





    We sketched the concept of the first lesson in the form of a game for catching mice and got down to business.



    First experience

    Through friends, I agreed with the nearest school to my house 1220 at VDNH. He came to the head teacher, showed examples of lessons. I met with a local teacher of computer science so that he was in the know and did not suddenly feel any competition. A few more weeks of coordination with all kinds of head teachers and teachers, and we were given a whole class of extension, children aged 8 years.

    A good thought was the idea of ​​first practicing with children of acquaintances at home. The first students of Kodabra were 8 year old Maxim and 6 year old Maya. And immediately everything went wrong as planned. They vied with each other to generate cartoon ideas, jumped from idea to idea, and manipulated me in every way. In two hours, we changed a dozen backgrounds and heroes, discussed about 15 possible scenarios for the development of actions, and as a result made only one moving sprite.

    From here the following rules were born:

    1. Move in small sprints. “And let's make the hero move.” Cutting off at this moment other bubbling ideas. Agile is more relevant than ever :)
    2. Always be on the alert and cut off manipulations. From experience. Maya: “And let's make the princess smile.” Me: "Well, it's a long time, I have to redraw." Maya: “Can’t you what? I thought you could do anything .. ". And I’m thinking about how to quickly redraw the sprite, but don’t move on to the lesson :)
    3. Feed piece by piece, the sweetest at the end. Making the hero move the control keys right away is not always the best idea. As soon as this turns out, the children begin to fly heroes and play their fictional games, ignoring reality.

    I took this experience into account, and the first lesson in the class went surprisingly smoothly. First, I suggested that the children steer me through the instructions “left, right, forward, backward”. Then we wrote them out on the board as a program. The goal was to bring me to a certain desk. The code was bribed, because it did not immediately lead me to the right place. And proceeded directly to Scratch. Background, hero, movement. And then a variable speed. The children had a literal explosion of emotions, someone introduced millions, someone braked on the contrary. The most active immediately guessed to create the second characters, they independently hung the code. I did not expect such a success.

    The training lasted two quarters. During this time, we tried with the guys and code.org. The concept of short lessons, assignments, of course, fits better into the school grid of lessons. But the level of involvement in creating “their” universes in Scratch is certainly higher.

    Below are the intermediate results from the lessons. The next step was to expand slightly to several schools and form a methodology. I read the reports on RIT and DevConf, according to the results several people joined us with the desire to teach. We agreed with school 492 and the children's social and rehabilitation center Otradnoe . And went on a summer vacation.






    Plans

    Our main goal for five years is to penetrate in the form of free lessons in the maximum number of children's institutions in the Russian Federation. It can be both lessons conducted by volunteer teachers, and experimental lessons conducted by full-time teachers in the main educational process.

    To achieve it, we identified several areas:
    1. Formation of a volunteer system and the development of free lessons in childcare.
    2. The development of an online platform that will contain ready-made interactive lessons with automatic tracking of the level of performance of a particular student and will help us communicate our methodology easier and faster.
    3. Try paid advanced courses for high school students.

    Our site is still under construction. From public contacts, this blog and groups on facebook and vk are still available . In the same blog, we will cover all aspects of children's STEM education. From a review of tools and processes to real-life lessons.

    If someone has a desire to help develop the project, we will only be happy.

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