Kids Get Coding

Heather Lyons & Elizabeth Tweedale

Published by

Wayland Books
ISBN

978-0-7502-9749-3

RRP £9.99
Reviewed by Neil Richardson
Score

5 out of 10

With a dictionary of key words and several exercises, this colourful booklet is one of several from a business organisation which aims to help young programmers gain the tools they will need to draft programs. While the text does cover a lot of ground and holds examples of contemporary coding, I felt the authors have compressed much (including a scant outline of flowcharts and languages) into twenty-four pages and raced against a tight publication deadline: the lower half of page 22 gives the phrases ‘computer program’ and ‘computer programme’ - twice.

There is an important distinction made early in the text which might have been supported further by examples; this distinction is that humans connect meanings to words, and so understand life in different ways - even within one family meanings may only partly overlap. However, instead of this caution, we find anthropomorphism in ‘the computer thinks of the screen like a map grid’ and ‘the robot can only understand the exact instructions’. Agreed, many children may express curiosity about robot technology, whether via science fiction in movies or practical application in class, but it seems misleading to say ‘robots are computers’ rather than stress computers are vital parts within robots.

The authors discussion of flowcharts, unsurprisingly, has diagrams. Yet they omit symbols for Start and End; and lines which connect symbols appear without arrows. For newcomers, these omissions may be troublesome. There’s also a likely source of confusion in using a title for the flowchart (Choose something to wear and Choose your meal) as a symbol in the diagram: best to display a title nearby, but outside the flow of logic.

Perhaps a fundamental issue for authors in this field is the absence of a robust and user-friendly language for beginners. Such a coding language would have a small set of instructions, for instance, Input A, Let A = B + D, Display C, If B = 6, and Go To 7. The language may tackle problems previously encountered in school or home. As part of a maths programme of study, a short introduction to coding could - like algebra - be delivered to pupils by means of representations of storage areas on paper. Kids Get Coding includes no images of a computer’s internal work areas.

Yes, modern Information Technology is impressive, and smart phones occasionally addictive, but a coherent approach to coding can be independent of both these features.

Further information: Wayland Books

September 2017