IT courses let kids tinker with computers

IT courses let kids tinker with computers
University of Tokyo

JAPAN - New educational initiatives are using gamelike software, tiny computer terminals and other technologies developed overseas to familiarize children with the basics of computer programming.

With government support for information technology education aimed at children, some private companies have opened extracurricular programming schools to teach kids how to make computers do what they want.

At a course held this summer at the University of Tokyo's Hongo Campus, 20 primary and middle school students stared at computer screens displaying a cartoon cat.

Next to the cat are several bar-shaped blocks labelled with such instructions as "move 10 steps" and "if on edge, bounce." Students can make the cat move by placing the blocks in different arrangements.

Organized by Canvas, a nonprofit group based in Sumida Ward, Tokyo, that offers a variety of courses to promote creativity in children, the three-day intensive seminar used the software Scratch to teach programming concepts.

Scratch was developed by a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States and was released in 2007.

Aimed at children ages 8 to 16, Scratch is designed to eliminate the complex strings of symbols and numbers normally used to give computers commands by using simple operations even a beginner can master to teach the basics of programming.

In the seminar, students created a game in which a mouse tried to escape from several cats.

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