Google has unveiled a special collection of online Blockly Games that are built as playful ways to engage children in their first efforts at programming, and the search giant wants parents to help build the interest of their children.
“Looking for ways to engage your kids in constructive, meaningful learning?” wrote Jennifer Vaden Barth, a Google executive assistant, in an Aug. 11 post on the Google Research Blog. “We’ve just launched Blockly Games, our next extension of Blockly, a Web-based graphical programming environment. As part of the generation of new programming environments that provide a more accessible introduction to coding, Blockly Games allows users to create and run programs by arranging blocks with a simple click, drag and drop.”
The idea, she wrote, is to “encourage you and your child to explore Blockly Games, where novice programmers of any age begin to learn together. With Blockly Games, the whole family can learn and master basic computer science concepts.”
The Blockly Games Website requires little or no typing, which makes it easier for young or novice programmers to learn core coding principles in an intuitive way, wrote Barth. “By minimizing the use of syntax, users are able to focus on the logic and concepts used by computer scientists, progressing at their own pace as they venture through mazes and more advanced arenas.”
The original Blockly project was featured during the 2013 Computer Science Education week, where people of all ages tried programming for the first time, she explained. “Blockly is universally accessible with translations for a number of languages, including German, Vietnamese, Russian and even Klingon.”
The Blockly Games include a wide range of educational games that teach programming, including Puzzle, which introduces Blockly’s shapes and shows how they snap together; Maze, which introduces loops and conditionals; Bird, which dives more deeply into conditionals; Turtle, which explores loops, nested loops and more; Movie, which introduces mathematical equations to help animate a movie; Pond, which is an open-ended contest to program the smartest duck; and Pond JS, which switches from blocks to conventional text-based programming.
Blockly Games is an open-source Google project that was created to encourage tomorrow’s programmers, according to Google. The games are designed to be self-paced and self-teaching.
Google often works on projects to encourage children to explore the computer sciences and possible careers in the field.
In June, Google committed $50 million over the next three years to encourage more young girls to join the field of IT and write computer code as part of the nascent Made with Code initiative. The group involves partners such as Chelsea Clinton, Girls Inc., Girl Scouts of the USA, Mindy Kaling, MIT Media Lab, the National Center for Women & Information Technology and SevenTeen.
The Made with Code project is working to solve some of today’s existing problems that are keeping young girls and women from pursuing careers in IT. The program uses tools that include coding projects using Blockly. Also included are collaborations with organizations like Girl Scouts of the USA and Girls Inc., to bring girls into Made with Code and to encourage them to complete their first coding experiences, she wrote.
The site also features inspirational videos about women who are using code in their dream jobs, including Miral, a hip-hop dancer and choreographer who lights up stages across the country; Danielle, a cinematographer at Pixar who helps to bring beloved characters like Nemo and Merida to life; and Erica, who is a humanitarian fighting malaria around the world.
In January, Google unveiled its work in organizing after-school programs to encourage K-12 students interested in studying computer science in college to dive into technology and come out with useful skills and lucrative careers. Through a pilot program launched in July 2013 at Google’s South Carolina data center, Google has been working with students to encourage their interest and show them the cool things they can do in the field of computer science. The computer science pilot program is especially aimed at minorities and girls, who are typically underrepresented in the field of computer science.
The program has been under way as a partnership of Google and the South Carolina Lowcountry school systems and teachers and aims to help students develop a positive attitude toward computer science and computers, as well as develop the confidence and curiosity to jump into a new computing experience.