Coding Platforms

There are numerous coding platforms to teach kids coding - Lego Mindstorms EV3, Scratch, Python, Microbit, Arduino, the list goes on. However, we only offer courses using platforms that are most suitable for the curriculum and its intended students.

 

How do we go about making sure that we are using the right platforms?

Goals that a coding platform need to achieve:

  • Engage and interest children

  • Sufficient complexity and challenge

  • Minimize frustration while maximizing learning opportunities

Assess various coding platforms using these characteristics:

  • Ease of entry - How difficult is it for someone new to pick it up?

  • Interactivity - Does the platform provide sufficient engagement?

  • Functionality - Does the platform scale well with difficulty levels?

"The ability to code and understand the power of computing is crucial to success in today's hyper-connected world."

- Al Gore

Why we use the coding platforms we use

We explore and illuminate the advantages and disadvantages of each coding platform.

Lego Mindstorms EV3

The Lego Mindstorms EV3 is a unique tool for teaching coding especially to those without prior knowledge. The EV3 experience comprises of Lego Technic parts, an intelligent brick (brain), coding is done through a drag-and-drop pseudo-code. This combination of a drag and drop interface together with physical movement provides children with sufficient stimuli to keep them engaged and interested. 

 

The building element, not available on 2-D screen platforms such as Scratch and Python, trains students' spatially processing while allowing them to unleash their creativity and problem solve. The experience of robots moving and interacting with the code that you have instructed allows real-world feedback. 

The coding platform is icon-based eliminating the need for precision needed in text-based coding. Above all it provides a visual representation of coding logic as a flow chart. That is much more age appropriate compared to a wall of text.

Functionality

Interactivity

Ease of Entry

Ideal for teaching coding logic

Python

Python is an actual text-based coding language is one of the fastest growing programming languages used in the workforce today. Python can work across platforms making it versatile and eliminating the need to re-write the code for a different operating system - It even works with the Lego Mindstorms EV3!

Python is one of the easiest to read and write making it an excellent platform to expose kids to a real coding language. Without a visual representation of the coding logic like the Lego Mindstorms EV3's pesudo-code, it is challenging for children to learn coding using such a platform. As much as we would like to expose children to ideas and concepts, how we do it absolutely matters. We risk children becoming frustrated and disinterested in coding, the exact opposite of what we want to achieve.

We do use Python in our courses, but only for students that have a foundation in coding logic.

Functionality

Interactivity

Ease of Entry

Text-based coding language for beginners

Scratch

Scratch like the Lego Mindstorms EV3, uses a drag and drop interface that is designed to be child-friendly. It is a good way to learn basic coding logic through creating games. This platform is decent at maintaining kids' interest initially, but because of its limited functionality, there are limited possibilities for children to explore. This lack of stimulus causes them to lose interest in coding eventually.

The experience of Scratch is mainly looking at characters on the screen, while this does provide visual feedback to children, we prefer the feedback to be tangible. Children are tangible learners after all.

We view this platform as a great way to start, however, consider supplementing with a different platform quickly that is able to illustrate coding concepts in more varied contexts.

Functionality

Interactivity

Ease of Entry

Good for beginners, but lacking in functionality

Micro:bit

Micro:bit is an exposed circuit board with connectors that serve as input and output. Micro:bit can be programmed through its proprietary pesudo-code - Blocks. This platform while easy to get started, struggles to provide real-world feedback. The lack of an accompanied structural element makes creating objects that move and interact difficult. Most Micro:bit users solve this problem by using standard Lego bricks to supplement the platform.

We see the experience of Micro:bit being somewhat similar but inferior to the Lego Mindstorms EV3. Through with the exception of proper integration with Lego Technic parts, the EV3 platform allows for a huge range of structures and mechanisms to be built, making the experience much more seamless and fun.

Functionality

Interactivity

Ease of Entry

Decent platform, but lacking structural components

Minecraft

Minecraft started as an open-world game for kids. In recent versions, Minecraft includes a drag and drop interface for children to experiment with coding within the game environment.

The biggest advantage to this is that kids are probably already familiar with the Minecraft environment, thus they may feel more comfortable in trying coding when introduced through this platform. Apart from that, we think Minecraft provides little additional benefits when compared to the rest of the other platforms.

Functionality

Interactivity

Ease of Entry

Kids are familiar with platform

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