Block-based coding is essentially a drag-and-drop based learning platform. Programmers use “blocks”, which each represent a coding instruction. This coding instruction constructs animated stories and games once entered into the system. Block-based coding is simple and attractive, perfect for children over the age of 6 years, and entry-level coders. It helps build an understanding and foundation in coding. Once kids learn programming with blocks, they build computational thinking through visuals in the block-based coding platform, which aids them in learning code.
So what are “blocks” from block-based coding really?
A “block” is a piece or a chunk. Each block represents a code. Each code represents an instruction given to the computer. Block-based coding involves putting suitable programming blocks, i.e suitable codes, together. This in turn gives a series of instructions to the computer to create a game or so on.
For instance, Scratch is a block-based coding platform. It is the most popular platform for kids as young as 7 years old, and beginners to learn to code. In Scratch, we have different types of blocks. Let’s look at these to understand “blocks” better.
Types of blocks in Scratch:
These blocks control the movement of sprites. A sprite is an image in Scratch, an icon, or character. With a motion block, you can instruct a Sprite to move or turn, according to the sprite itself, other sprites, or other variables on the platform. Example: You add a block that tells a sprite to move 5 steps ahead from the spot it is on or 20 degrees to its right. creators can tell a sprite to move forward 10 steps, or turn 15 degrees to the right.
These blocks change the appearance or look of a sprite. You can add this block to make a sprite say or think something. Looks blocks are used to change a sprite’s costume, the environment or backdrop of the platform, and other aspects of the design of the sprite icon. Example: You can add a block to instruct the sprite to greet another sprite with a text box, “hi! how are you?”, that lasts on the screen for 5 seconds or so on. You can also change the dress items the sprite is wearing. Think of how you customize a character in a video game, it is a looks block that does that! Except for this time, you are not only creating the dressing item, but you are also creating its looks block or looks code.
Sound blocks in block-based coding add sound effects to the game, animation, or video. You can add sounds, songs, alter the pitch, bass, and volume with a sound block. Example: If the sprite you created with a looks block is a dog, you can make it “woof” by adding a sound block.
This visual learning method is perfect for children. It is interactive, and experience-based instead of simple text-based learning.
What can my kid build with block-based coding platforms?
In a block-based coding program such as Scratch, blocks are arranged by an easy drag-and-drop method. Kids can get creative and attach different blocks of their choice with ease. Just choose a block, drag it to another block, drop it, and if the blocks match, they will stick together to create an interactive sprite. Blocks that don’t match with each other do not attach to each other. This means that codes which are incompatible with each other do not form. This is why programming with blocks is perfect for kids. They can be creative while learning which codes are compatible and not. Kids, therefore, understand how coding works better. Children can use Scratch and similar block programming platforms to build games, videos, animations, and more.
Here is a look at what your child can create with block-based coding, popularly known as drop-and-drop coding platforms:
These are games in which players click icons to score points. Be it popping balloons, or catching fish, once the icon is clicked on, the player wins a point. Once one icon is clicked on, more icons appear on the screen. In turn, the players win more points as they click these icons.
Chase games include a controlling character that chases another one or the object. A game in which a shark is chasing a smaller fish, or a cop catching a thief, would fall under the category of a chase game.
Pong games include the typical setup where there is a mouse/keypad-controlled paddle that a player moves to and fro in order to prevent the ball from touching a surface in the game, and so on.
The player taps on up and down arrows in order for the character to move on a specific path. For instance, a bird moving through trees, or a boy cycling through a specific road.
Adventure games are similar to standard complex video games that have a storyline and go on longer than usual block coding games. These are the block-based coding games which most gamers play, and you see on large scale apps or gaming gadgets. These games have multiple characters, multiple backgrounds, multiple players, and multiple objects or tasks to undertake, in order for the player to gain points and jump from one level to another.
It’s key to have a game plan, learn the most elementary concepts, and build from thereon. Kids need visually attractive textbooks to learn theory, and they need visually attractive platforms to learn to code as well. The same way textbooks need to be easy to read, the coding platform needs to be easy to use, and practice on. Drag-and-drop coding platforms like Scratch, specially developed by MIT for kids, ensures this.
Learn more about Scratch, and peruse through a series of 4 specifically curated Scratch coding courses for kids here: https://codevidhya.com/scratch-coding-for-kids/