In a move that might just put a few old school programmers' noses out of joint, a new game is being trialed to teach Java. The game’s aim is to teach young children via fantasy game. Instead of banging their heads against a monitor every time they get a line of code wrong, they get to have fun in a game instead.
The lucky little sods. Now I can’t claim to know Java or even C++, but I did learn basic and HTML the hard way. Via trial and error with a dash of frustration and angst.
Not surprising, Wired is all over this story and details other efforts to get children into programming.
“The game is the latest addition to an ever-growing list of tools designed to teach the art of programming to younger audiences — a list that includes everything from new programming languages to children’s books. Yes, children’s books. A Facebook engineer named Carlos Bueno recently published a book called Lauren Ipsum, which aims to teach the basics of programming to children as young as 5-years-old — without forcing them to learn actual code.”
What is fascinating is there is quite a bit of activity to get as young children as possible into programming. Then again just like any “language” the younger a child is the easier time they have learning it. The difficulty many adults have in learning a language whether it be programming or spoken is you have to unlearn some of things you were taught in school.
The neo-luddite brigade will probably moan about the fact that these children should be outside playing or involved in team sports (whether they are good at them or not). But those wishing American children to be competitive with Asian children will see this as a great opportunity to give American children a head start in high tech.
In fact many believe that we shall have to continue to “offshore” tech jobs to places like India because of the lack of skills in the U.S.
“The argument was based on the finding that the demand by U.S. companies for talent with degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) was rising three times faster than jobs in the rest of the economy, but these positions were “the hardest to fill because of the dearth of native-born Americans with these degrees.” The report said the U.S. would face a shortage of 224,000 hi-tech workers by 2018.”
And the beta is out so you can have a go if you wish. As by playing this beta you can help them find bugs to get it into better shape. Alas so far it only runs on Mac. You have variety of size choices as well as fullscreen and windowed.
Putting on my game reviewer hat I rather enjoyed it. It is a simple first-person magic based game where you wander round a valley helping people. There is a monster that is trying to get you and giant cupcakes to collect. Java is your means of spell casting and you create spells by looking in your spellbook and watching the Java. Any gamer will feel right at home and get into it rather quickly
If you have a Mac and want to have a look, I recommend downloading the beta. Who knows, you might even end up learning Java as you have a bit of fun.
This is quite a cool idea and I hope it will start a wave of programming instruction via games. It sure beats having an “idiots guide” and teaching yourself it the hard way.