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5 Coding Definitions Every Kid (and Parent) Should Know in 2016

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When I tell friends, family members, and even complete strangers about iD Tech, I often get the same question—can kids actually learn to code?

For anyone who isn’t a programmer, the skill usually comes off as wizardry; something only to be mastered by those with superpowers. To be honest, before being exposed to our coding camps, I was one of those people…”Really? A programming class for 7-year-olds?”

So, in attempt to facilitate an understanding of programming, I wanted to start basic. Like really basic. Like defining words basic. Why? Because when we hear things like “coding” or “Java” or “application” without a base level of comprehension, it’s intimidating. It’s natural to be afraid of the unknown…so let’s make the unknown known.

1. “Programming”

I have a dog—a little Jack Russell Terrier named Madden. I want to be able to train Madden to the point where upon command, she responds and performs to my instruction. “Sit.” “Stay.” “Don’t even think about chasing that squirrel.” I’ve had more luck with certain commands over others (fake squirrel pictured).

 

jack-russell-terrier

When you write a program, the basis of your actions don’t stray far from the same. You, the owner, are giving a set of commands to your computer (or dog, in this example) and expecting a certain outcome based on those commands. But instead of speaking those instructions with a pocket full of bacon treats, you’re writing instructions in a language that kind of resembles normal English, but with a few additional parameters and rules. Not to mention that, unlike a dog, the computer always listens—if the command is given properly.

Programming is the foundation of robotics, video games, apps, computer graphics, and so much more. Every computer program is a set of instructions; a sequence of short commands, one after another. It’s about breaking up a complex task into a set of smaller, individual instructions and using a programming language to write those instructions.

2. “Programming Language”

An Uncle of mine greatly overuses the saying “Now you’re speaking my language!” Like way too often. So, while it’s a personal rule of mine to generally stay away from the idiom, it fits here. This one’s for you Uncle Morris.When you write a program, the basis of your actions don’t stray far from the same. You, the owner, are giving a set of commands to your computer (or dog, in this example) and expecting a certain outcome based on those commands. But instead of speaking those instructions with a pocket full of bacon treats, you’re writing instructions in a language that kind of resembles normal English, but with a few additional parameters and rules. Not to mention that, unlike a dog, the computer always listens—if the command is given properly.

Programming is the foundation of robotics, video games, apps, computer graphics, and so much more. Every computer program is a set of instructions; a sequence of short commands, one after another. It’s about breaking up a complex task into a set of smaller, individual instructions and using a programming language to write those instructions.

In order for you to communicate with a computer (and to get it to execute your instructions) you must speak its language. In programming, a language is made up of a vocabulary and set of grammatical rules—sound familiar?

Where it gets a little tricky is that each language is based on its own unique syntax (grammatical structure) and semantics (meaning). There are a number of different programming languages, and when it comes to which one you should be learning, it all really depends on what you want to do—C++ is the basis for popular web browsers, Adobe products, and more, while Java is good to know when creating video games, with Python powering sites like Pinterest and Instagram.

Here is a portion of an infographic from Colorado Technical University that breaks down language differences. (Click to enlarge.)

programming-languages-infographic

Need help deciding which specific programming language your kid or teen should learn? Reach out to us via live chat, drop us us an email, or call us at 1-888-709-8324.

3. “Programming Statement”

Because the terms “instructions” and “commands” were used quite a bit in the previous explanations, I thought it best to next define “statements.”

Basically, the way you tell a computer to do something is by giving it instructions, or writing statements to explain a desired action. Again, it’s similar to writing sentences in English, but with words, numbers, and punctuation added in depending on the programming language you’re using.

So to bring it together, a program is written through a sequence of one or more statements.
Think about it like giving a friend driving directions—“Go straight for one mile. Turn left. Go straight for another two blocks. Stop at stop sign. Turn right.” The task you want to achieve is getting your friend from point A to point B. You break up that task through a number of individual statements to make it happen.

4. “Scratch Programming”

Now let’s turn to something a little more tangible. Scratch is a MIT-developed graphical programming language, where kids can learn drag-and-drop programming basics to create interactive stories and creative comics.

While you can get a little caught up in all of the different programming languages shown above, Scratch is a great intro to programming for any kid. Instead of lines of code, Scratch users build with colorful command blocks and cartoon sprites. The real beauty of it is, even without typing code, users can gain experience with statements, learn computational ideas, and think creatively to problem-solve. Plus, Scratch is incredibly engaging.

5. “Application” (or “App”)

The last thing I want to define, for now, is the almighty app. Yes, you have an iPhone or an Android smartphone and are probably very familiar with “apps,” how to download them, how to use them, etc. But the mobile app is just one example. Short for “application,” apps can also take form as web apps or online apps.

Really, while “app” has become the trendy, modern, go-to word, it really doesn’t differ from a software program. An app is designed for a particular purpose, and on your iPhone or Android device, that can mean just about anything. Find a restaurant. App. Order pizza. App. Facebook. App. Pokémon Go. App. Most of these things can be done through a web browser, but the mobile apps, designed specifically to be accessed from your phone, make life so much easier.

To build an iPhone app, you’ll need to know Xcode, Apple’s integrated development environment. To build an app for Android, your development environment will require Eclipse. View all iD Tech mobile app development courses.

So there you go, five quick and easy programming-related definitions. Are you an expert now? Nope. But hopefully these definitions help you mold the idea of programming in your mind, while spurning additional questions and igniting the drive to learn even more.