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Bridging the Block Coding Gap

With each new generation, kids get better with technology. While using technology on a day-to-day basis is becoming the norm, kids and parents alike are pushing for the younger generations to have more opportunities for jobs in technology which usually involves the ability to code. This begs the question: What is the best way for kids to learn to create new technology, and get them a head start in their professional careers?

With the push for earlier access to technology, coding has become more accessible, and there are many different ways to teach coding to kids. Block coding has become a very popular way for young students to get introduced to the concepts of coding without having to master typing, or the syntax of different programming languages.

While this is a good first step, it's a long leap to go from dragging procedural blocks together to typing out thousand lines of code by hand. There must be an intermediate stepping stone in between the two that allows students to bridge the gap more easily. Many educators are struggling to do this effectively. A lot of curriculum does a great job at introducing students to advanced coding concepts, but they never leave the block coding systems. And this is where we come in. At STEM Forged, we use game design as a great solution for taking students with little to no coding experience all the way to a professional level set of skills, with no gaps in between. Block coding is a great first step and with our game engine of choice, Blocksmith, we’re able to introduce coding concepts in an easily grasped format called “events”.

These events start off with concepts that are easy to understand and get more advanced as students get more familiar with the systems. Where we differ from a lot of traditional curricula is how we handle the next step; instead of staying in the block coding event systems, we then start introducing JavaScript behavior-based events. These essentially do the same things as our events, but now students are taking their previous knowledge and typing it out by hand. This allows our students to know exactly what should happen, even if it’s the first time they are typing out code by hand. This not only serves as a great stepping stone into the world of typing code, but it gives them the confidence they need to continue.

"We combat the low expectations students set for themselves."

Just like block coding eases students into code concepts, behavior-based events ease students into typing code by hand without becoming overwhelmed by pages upon pages of code. This middle ground allows us to effectively transition students into more professional game engines - where everything will still feel familiar to them, but give them even more freedom to express their creativity. Creativity they can express through their code.

So, lowering the barrier to entry using block code is a great way to start students, but the most important thing to consider is the way to bridge the gap between ease-of-use and real-world skills and applications.

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