Over the last three years I have taken small Arduino robots about the country with the aim offering a hands on programming experience that is open and creative. The thing that interests me is how interested very young kids are. In a recent study in a shopping mall we had several three and four year olds that dictated their programs and were very excited by the results. playing with my own children (2&4) with and with out robots makes me thing the computer may be the barrier and we could explore different methods (notations) for program generation. I remember reading about a robot (out of MIT) which can be moved about and remembers the motion. The is neat as the cause and effect will be accessible to young people. It tricky to scale and still quite abstract.
Recently I’ve been working with @alinapier to make A wireless drawing bot for a micro sensor workshop with jewelers and textile designers. One stage in the process involved producing a robot that would receive serial commands and enact them. If you get a 1 move forward, if you get a 9 change the pen state. This got me thinking…
What if these serial instructions were not an interpretation of some wireless sensor but the result of scanning a qr code on postcard or playing card. You could place an image or icon on the card to show what the result will be. Or better still let the children explore the cards resultant movement or action and develope thier own notation. Lining these up on the ground in order your code is visable and tangible and ultametly on terms a three year old is familure with. I remember at ITiCSE 07 people excited about ruby an the ability to throw commands at a prompt and see a immediate result. This then naturally grows to a desire to group and re use instruction the same would be possible with this system. With better and better mobile device cameras it is likely you could identify and discern order from a picture with a number of cards.
Could we be teaching programming in nursery?