Educational Computer sites for kids?
November 29, 2007 8:30 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for great educational computer sites for kids.

There are hundreds and hundreds of sites out there for kids that are based in education, but they all seem to be very similar. They contain homework help or are just collections of links. Also, they rarely contain information on computers (for a computer teacher/curriculum). As an example of the kinds of interaction I am looking for, I enjoy and I would like the site to be targeted towards grades 6-8 and, if possible, teach anything from computer concepts to programming. Bonus points if it is presented as a sort of game.
posted by mcarthey to Education (7 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I learned to use computers when I was around that age by playing games on the computer, and by playing games with the computer. Presenting the information as a game is the quickest was to get a handle on technology, in my opinion. The game doesn't have to be a flash app on a website, however; the technology itself is a game if properly presented. Unless you're talking about very simple computer introduction--explaining a gui, for example--a computer system can be a fantastic game, and poking and prodding it is the most effective way to learn.

This is probably not what you're looking for, but if your class is at least a little advanced I would suggest sites like notPron, although that particular game is a little too hard. The baisc idea is that the player (or learner) is presented must make their way through a series of webpages, each requiring the player to accomplish a new skill in order to proceed. The catch is that the new skill is never stated; the player has to experiment. Some of it is not computer related, but most of it is--learning what the source code of a web page is, how a file tree works, or how to use an FTP server are a few examples.

While notPron is almost certainly too hard for computer neophytes, there are plenty of easier games that use the same learn-by-experimentation methodology. Unfortunately, I can't find them right now and google isn't bringing anything up. Maybe other people can name some?

If the kids are completely new to computers, my apologies; the above might not work for you. It's definitely unlike molecularium. But I started really getting under the hood of computers at around that age, and so long as the kids have just enough knowledge to poke around (being able to right click, for example, or knowing that you can change the URL bar) they might suprise you.
posted by postcommunism at 9:43 PM on November 29, 2007

A great old classic is the programming language Logo. It's a very easy introduction to programming originally designed for kids. You instruct a little "turtle" how to walk around the screen, and he draws pictures as he walks. You teach the kids how to do some basic moves (draw a square, say), and then set them a slightly harder task (draw a pinwheel made of many squares, say) so they have to get creative in combining the instructions they know how to give the turtle. There are lots of free resources for projects you can have the kids do, with a wide range of conceptual difficulty. Once the kids get good, they can design their own games - eg a soccer game was always a favorite when I used to teach Logo.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:22 PM on November 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Personally I like scratch as a potential first programming language. It uses bricks that you snap together in lego-like fashion to program actions. The site has some videos that describe it better than I could here.
posted by dereisbaer at 4:37 AM on November 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks all, but programming languages are not what I'm looking for. We have an entire WebQuest dedicated to programming and designing video games in the higher grades. I'd like to find something along the lines of NotPron but, as post said, it is a little hard for them. If anyone is familiar, it would ideally be something that could be run on a SmartBoard to demonstrate. I'm looking for more of an interactive than an entire unit. These could be used by kids as a reward for work completion or even to answer questions they may have. There are hundreds of interactives available on the web (and I have bookmarked lots of them) but they generally don't have interactives of the quality that I mentioned above (they are typically simplified puzzles) or they don't cover education in computers. NotPron is close and I will spend some time looking at it. Thanks for the help so far!
posted by mcarthey at 6:28 AM on November 30, 2007

(I realize that it didn't answer the OP's question, but I appreciate the mention of Scratch and Logo for my artistic 11-year old niece. Thanks!)
posted by parilous at 7:43 AM on November 30, 2007

Response by poster: This is a link to my teacherweb with some additional links for the poster who was interested in Scratch and Logo. Feel free to browse the other links there as there might be something else of interest.
posted by mcarthey at 5:34 PM on November 30, 2007

the homeschooler in my house (age 11) and i have enjoyed There are lots of other games, but i link to the "programming bots" page, which is pretty cool. might be kinda young, but might not.
posted by RedEmma at 9:44 PM on November 30, 2007

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