The Rocket Blog

Top Five Resources to Prepare Future Coders
By Tonya Thompson on Jul 7, 2015

By 2018, the U.S. may be short as many as 3 million high-skilled workers in fields related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).  That might seem unbelievable until you learn that companies like Google and Facebook have bought out smaller companies for the sole purpose of having access to the skillsets of the employees working there.

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Try to find a young person over the age of 5 that doesn’t use a high-tech device daily and you’ll see the paradox of these statistics. The passion’s there, the curiosity is there…so why aren’t they learning the technology that powers the experience?

Research suggests that it could be as simple as exposure and practice. Leading kids into more complex layers of the gaming and social networking platforms they’ve enjoyed is easy to do if you know how to do it.  In the process, they’ll develop problem-solving and analytical skills that improve memory and raise standardized test scores substantially.  Everyone wins! 

Convinced yet?

Good. Our coding gurus have put together a list of five fantastic sites to introduce young technophiles to the exciting world of programming. Hey, they’re probably digging into codes already to find Minecraft hacks, why not persuade them to turn that curiosity into what could become a highly marketable future skill? 

Scratch

Developed as a project of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at MIT, Scratch is a free web-based program that allows hands-on creation of interactive stories, games, and animations with drag-and-drop code blocks. Users are able to share their creations in an online community and learn the fundamental principals of computer programming in the process. 

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CodePen

The neatest thing about CodePen is a clear picture of how html creates the framework; CSS runs the style and design; and JavaScript handles all the interactive, moving parts of the program.  For example, in “Chill the Lion,” one of the many user-generated apps available on the site, a mouse click turns on the fan and blows the lion’s mane. The mouse pad sets the position of the fan. It’s relatively simple movement and plot line but the coding that goes into it is right there, easy to see and readily available for tweaking or changing for endless fun programming experiments. 

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Programming Basics

Beginning with the opening line, “computers aren't very smart,” Programming Basics.org offers simple, well-paced lessons that are easy to understand, slightly humorous, and fun to engage with. Created by Dr. Ming-Yee Iu to facilitate programming education across multiple languages, the website features lessons, downloads and teaching resources – all available at no cost and in 17 languages. 

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Blockly Games

Blockly Games are all designed to teach the foundation of JavaScript, including loops and conditionals, to children (or adults) who have had no prior experience with writing programming languages. First, you direct a character (or spaceman or panda…really, you decide) to go a particular direction on the map. You’re given command blocks to manipulate to achieve the correct sequence. Once in order, the sequence is run and you’re given an on-screen reminder of the Java commands that would be needed to run the same sequence in real-world programming. 

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Daisy the Dinosaur

On the go and looking for fun, educational ways to entertain a child? Daisy the Dinosaur is a free app you can download for your iPad that has an easy drop-and-drag interface that kids love. While playing it, they’ll learn fundamental principles of programming such as sequencing, loops, objects and events. 

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