Programming for Kids: Parents Ask, Tynker Answers – Part 2
Parents of young children wanting to help their kids learn programming have a number of questions about it – what does programming mean, is my child too young (or old) for it, I do not know programming myself so how do I ensure my child is learning – and so on. The Libertarian Homeschooler, a Facebook page with a vibrant community of involved parents, asked if Tynker could help them explore and understand ‘programming for kids‘ better.
Parents posed questions, Tynker answered, and this led to a very informative and insightful discussion on the topic a few days ago over at their Facebook page.
Below is the second set of questions and answers from that discussion. Here is the first half of the Q&As if you missed it.
What ages is programming suited for? What do I need to know about coding? And similar Qs. Tynker answers..
Q: What do the kids need to know about binary to have programming make sense? What do they need to know about operating systems?
A: Nothing! Knowing what the binary system or the OS is has practically nothing to do with programming logic, especially at their age. Without having to worry about those not so relevant concepts, kids will focus on computational thinking – how do I make my score go up by 10 each time the alien is clicked – which is what we should be aiming for!
Tynker is experimental in that sense – DIY and learn through discovery. We deliberately kept concepts like binary out of the picture since they do not add much to the learning and will end up only confusing the child.
Q: What ages is learning programming more suited for? Shouldn’t they be at least in high school before they begin?
A: Visual based programs can be started at a young age. We recommend starting Tynker in Grade 4. Kids are good logical thinkers by that age, and they are comfortable with communication and understanding instructions. We do have some younger kids Tynkering with aplomb – each child is different so make a call based on your own child’s interest and ability. If you decide to start with Tynker, remember, it never expires, so you can keep coming back to it based on your child’s readiness.
Q. Is your grade provision due to reading level? My 7 year old can read well past a 4th grade level, so I was wondering if this was reasonable for him?
A. We do have younger kids Tynkering comfortably, including some 7 and 8 year olds. We specify the 4th grade lower limit so we can guarantee the learning we offer. The grade provision is due to the reading level yes, so the child can understand instructions (all written) and can read and understand the code blocks. Also, the course requires some level of understanding of logic, sequencing, cause-and-effect. Our take – if you think your child can do it, you could go ahead. The course, and access to Tynker, never expires, so if you feel your child is not quite ready, you can always come back to it in a few weeks/months.
Edited to add: Interestingly, here’s a mom of a 6 year old on their experience with the Tynker course.
Q: I don’t know anything about computers or programming. Even if we use a programming learning tool, I feel unsure of how I can guide my child through it. What if they need me to teach them or help them when they get stuck – I don’t think I could do that.
A: On some of the available programming platforms (which are not guided courses that is) this could indeed be an issue. We have tried to avoid this problem by building a product with ‘no programming skills needed’, either in parents, or in child!
We offer children a completely self-paced 16-chapter course that they drive themselves. The course is filled with guided lessons, puzzles, tutorials, quizzes, challenge missions, and training videos. It’s almost like having a virtual instructor taking them through increasingly complex programming concepts.
So a parent’s help is not required. It is of course fun to do things together with our kids so you could go ahead and learn some of it along with your child!
How should I get my child started learning to code? How does Tynker work? And similar Qs. Tynker Answers..
Q: My kids love Scratch. But what would be a good way to scaffold skills or programs into something good, not all messy and helter-skelter?
A: Following some sort of curriculum is a good way to bring structure to programming learning. Here are examples of programming concepts: events, user interactions, messaging, finite and infinite loops, conditionals, delays, keyboard and mouse control, pen drawing, visual effects, turning, directionality and motion, and physics engine. Now these need to be laid out in a structured progressive manner, that is in a curriculum, so that there is a method to the learning.
As an example, Tynker offers a 16-chapter Introduction-to-Programming structured course. You start with the basic programming concepts, and work your way up through progressively more complex ones, while covering all relevant topics. In each chapter you learn with the help of guided lessons and exercises, and reinforce the learning with puzzles, tutorials, quizzes, challenge missions and training videos.
Watch this video for a quick walkthrough of the course:
You could also go over to www.tynker.com/parents to learn more, especially to understand what your child will come away with at the end of the course.
Q: What happens if we sign up to Tynker? Do kids just start learning, on their own, and find their way around it?
A: Once you sign up and create your child’s account, they can log in and follow the structured and pre-set path through the chapters – they will not lose their way, or have to wonder “what next”, while going through this Introduction to Programming course.
Q: How long does it take for a child to “complete” learning programming with Tynker?
A: Well, programming is a vast and endless field, but our 16-chapter Introduction to Programming course should take around 16 weeks to complete, especially if the child spends time after every chapter in reviewing learning, creating their own projects using those concepts, and referring back to earlier lessons as they progress.
Q: Does Tynker expire?
A: No. The course never expires – once completed or while going through the chapters, you can go back, revisit a chapter, any time.
Even once your child is done with the course, they have access to the Tynker programming workshop indefinitely. So they can simply continue to program using Tynker – creating games, stories, science and math projects, based on the skills they have already learned.
Q: I have more than one child. Will one Tynker account do for all of them?
A: No. Tynker is a self-learning tool that is built to create a personalized learning experience for each individual child, and you as a parent will have access separately to each child’s creations, progress maps, reports, etc.
We do offer a discounted fee for each additional child, so if you have more than one child you can avail that discount.
Q. I wonder if there is anything like this over here in England. I reckon both my boys would love it 🙂.
A. Tynker is available worldwide as long as the child understands English, and we have a large number of users in England, Australia, Canada. There is no physical product to be delivered – its a simple browser login based use, so a child can Tynker anywhere in the world!
Q: I may have more questions once I explore this further. What’s the best way to reach you guys at Tynker if I need to?
(Editor’s Note: Tynker Course 101 is no longer offered. Check out our new introductory courses!)