Programming Software for Beginners revisited

Back in October I wrote about Programming Software for Kids.  Well I had my freshman tech aide Meghan (a 14 year old girl that is an extremely smart geek) go through a list of languages/environments I could think of for kids.  I wanted her to look at how hard it was to get going in the language.  Now being extremely bright (sort of scary smart if you get my drift) her comments are a bit above normal and may not fit the average kid.  I gave her a form to fill out for each application.  She took that form and made it better.  (Did I mention she is smart?)  She had no experience programming in any of these languages/environments.  She is more of a hardware/systems specialist and is just getting in to programming.  I am going to cut and paste her document.  I provided her with nothing but a list of apps and a computer.  It is an interesting read from a novice’s prospective.  I did not edit the following, it is all her.  I have a new aide this semester.  Another smart freshman.  I am going to give him the same list and form and see how they compare.

Programing Software for Beginners

 

Alice

  • standalone
  • It isn’t very easy to get started in the software.
  • Installation is required
    • It is easy to install.
  • There are tutorials on the website (but they are not very good).
    • They are pretty hard to find. I had to look for one that was halfway decent.
    • They aren’t very easy to follow.
  • The website isn’t all that easy to navigate. They don’t separate their different programs’ tutorials all that well and whoever is in charge of the site needs to update it.
  • Alice is meant for beginners but it isn’t very novice friendly
    • It may look fun to a beginner at first but it is not

CodeCombat

  • standalone
  • It is easy to get started (but you need an account).
  • Installation is not required.
  • CodeCombat is basically a tutorial/game in one.
    • The tutorials are easy to find.
    • The tutorials are easy to follow.
  • The website is easy to navigate.
  • It is very novice friendly and great for beginners.
    • It’s very fun, especially if the beginner programmers enjoy RPGs[1]

CodeHS

  • standalone
  • It is easy to get started, but you need to make an account.
  • Installation is not required
  • This whole site is a tutorial.
    • They are easy to find.
    • They are easy to follow.
  • The website is easy to navigate.
  • This is a very novice friendly site.
    • It looks fun, but not in the same way as Kodu. It still is enjoyable.

Gamemaker

  • I was unable to get this game to work on my computer.

Kodu

  • standalone
  • It is easy to get started
  • Installation is required
    • It is very easy to install.
  • There are tutorials in the application itself, but not on the site.
    • They are easy to find.
    • They are extremely easy to follow. It tells you step by step exactly what to do as you do it.
  • The website is easy to navigate
  • This is a great language for beginners and it is very user friendly
    • To a beginner it looks so fun!

Kojo Programming

  • standalone
  • It isn’t very easy to get started.
  • Installation is not required but it’s easier to just download.
    • You have to install Java too, but otherwise it is easy to install.
  • There are tutorials on the website in both pdf form and eBooks you have to buy.
    • They are hard to find.
    • The tutorial is sort of easy to follow, but it’s just throwing information at you (not very organized)
  • These people really need to update their site
  • This is not novice friendly.
    • It looks rather boring. All Kojo is teaching is turtle programming.

Project Spark[2]

  • standalone
  • It is not easy to get started; you have to get a Microsoft account, then get Xbox Live, then have internet to actually use the game. If you have these three things then it should be rather easy.
  • Installation is required
    • It is very easy to install as long as you have a Microsoft account.
  • I was unable to find tutorials on the website, although they may be in the application itself. I couldn’t check.
  • The website is easy to navigate
  • It is a great language for beginners, although it may be best if they try Kodu first.
    • It looks very entertaining to beginners.

Scratch

  • standalone
  • It is easy to get started, but an account is needed to use the online version
  • Installation is not required but it is optional
    • In order to use it you must have Adobe Flash. Otherwise it is easy to install.
  • There are tutorials on the website.
    • They are easy to find ( under HELP on the site)
    • They are extremely easy to follow. It tells you step by step exactly what to do as you do it (like with Kodu). It gives freedom but still teaches.
  • The website is easy to navigate
  • This is a great language for beginners and it is very user friendly
    • It looks very fun to a beginner.

Small Basic

  • standalone
  • It is easy to get started once you read the tutorial.
  • Installation is required
    • It is very easy to install.
  • There is a tutorial on the site in pdf form.
    • It is easy to find (it’s on the main page)
    • It is easy to follow, although it does go on about things the programmers should already know, such as what programming is and such.
  • The website is easy to navigate. It does look a bit outdated though.
  • I’ve never used this before (although I have used Visual Basic) and it’s easy to learn by using the PDF.
    • To a beginner it may not look as fun as say, Scratch or Project Spark. It is entertaining after messing around with it (or maybe that’s just me).

Touchdevelop

  • standalone
  • It is easy to get started. If you want to save your progress/apps you should get an account but that is simple.
  • Installation is not required.
  • There is a tutorial on the site.
    • It’s easy to find.
    • It is sort of easy to follow. They start you in the middle of a complicated project and even though they tell you what to do, they don’t really explain what the rest of the code is.
  • The website is easy to navigate.
  • It is only sort of novice friendly.
    • The software looks pretty fun to a beginner.

 

[1] role playing games, for those who don’t know for some reason

[2] I was not able to actually use this game on my computer because of problems I still have to figure out, so I wasn’t able to finish this. I was able to play for a short time on Mr. Flint’s computer though. It’s fun to make the character swim to the edge of the world and fall.

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2 Responses to “Programming Software for Beginners revisited”

  1. alfredtwo Says:

    This is great. I liked reading how these tools look to an actual beginner. I look forward to what your next student reports.

  2. Bob Irving (@birv2) Says:

    Great stuff! I love her responses, and we don’t ask the students enough about these things. Sorry that she couldn’t get GameMaker started, since I find kids take to it really well.

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