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Programming Basics
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A website for teaching people how to program
A website for teaching people how to program

455 followers
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Some new changes to the Programming Basics website are now being deployed. A new teaching module on Interactive Storytelling has been added to the downloads section. I've been working on that for a number of years, so I'm really glad to have finally finished that. The beginner lessons have also had a lot of adjustments so that they work better on cellphones and high dpi screens. There's been a lot of UI tweaks that I've been wanting to make to the HTML5 version of the site that I've held back on because I didn't want to lose compatibility with the old Java version of the site. I think I've found a way to blend in some of those changes without breaking the Java compatibility. It's great to finally be able to zoom in on diagrams. Some of the text in a diagrams for some languages can get quite small and blurry. I've had the drawings in SVG format for ages, but SVG support on older browsers is fairly poor, especially when you make use of features like RTL text, but I've found a way to keep the old bitmap drawings for older browsers while using SVG vector drawings on newer browsers.
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The Programming Basics' handouts on Programming Games in Scratch were included in the Hour of Code list of activities again this year! Be sure to check out all the amazing tutorials that have been gathered there, and definitely try out our Scratch lessons if you haven't tried them already.
Hour of Code
Hour of Code
hourofcode.com
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A new teaching module about NFC technology that demonstrates how technology can be mixed with fashion and art has been added to the Programming Basics website.
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I've added a new teacher's guide to the Programming Games in Scratch section of the website. I also redid the layouts of the handouts to be more consistent, in preparation for the time that I ever get around to translating them to other languages.
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Yet another company is making yet another piece of educational hardware for teaching programming. Just from a cursory examination of the video, I already get the feel that they've botched the programming language. A programming language isn't just a bunch of uniform commands. There's a structure and syntax to it, which seems to have been completely ignored by Project Bloks. I encountered a similar frustration with Microsoft's Project Spark. They built a really powerful programming language, but they provided no syntax or guides on how the commands could be combined to form a proper syntax. If I want to repeat something 6 times, why does the repeat go at the beginning while the 6 goes at the end? Why can't the 6 go after the repeat? Or before the repeat? How is anyone supposed to make sense of this language?

And none of this stuff will ever make it to the classroom because it will all be too expensive. It will likely cost $50-$100 per kit. A free piece of software would be much more useful.
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The old Usborne programming books for kids are now available for download for free. I made the Programming Basics website specifically to try to recreate the magic of those old books.
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I was helping to teach Python to some kids over the weekend, and I noticed that one kid with a Chinese IME couldn't get anything to work because the Windows IME was inserting different types of quotation marks in an inconsistent way. Unfortunately, I noticed that Programming Basics also suffered from that problem. Since most people don't really notice if their quotation marks are the wrong way (left-version vs right-version vs neutral version), I've decided to make the underlying Babylscript engine very lenient about how it matches together quotation marks around strings. I've updated the website to fix that, fix up some missing Swahili translations, and do a general clean-up of the code behind the scenes (the website should work on Java 1.4 again for people still using that). 
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I've also spent the past week working on the infrastructure for the website to prepare it for possible inclusion in the eGranary project. The eGranary project will essentially ship a copy of the website to places with little or no Internet access. I've been designing a version of the website that can be packaged up this way. Instead of relying on external websites for videos or programming tools, this version packages up those things up with the website itself. I created a new JavaScript editor for use with the JS graphics lessons instead of relying on jsbin, and I embedded the lesson videos instead of relying on YouTube. Most of my time, though, was spent trying to make a version of Scratch that can be shipped with the website. Although Scratch is ostensibly "open source", they really don't want you to make your own version of Scratch, so some small but important pieces were left out of the source, and it took me a while to figure out how to get it to work.
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I've made some new updates to the Programming Basics website. The biggest change is the addition of a new game to the "Making Games" lessons. It's a dress-up game suitable for beginners who aren't interested in driving or shooting. I've also updated the links to other websites to include some of the latest programming websites that have come up or matured over the past year or two. There's also been a few small tweaks here and there.
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