Finding the best coding language for beginners (revisited)

pythonProbably the most visited article on my site here is the original post on this topic. I wrote that about a year ago, and my conclusion was that Small Basic fit the bill best. It was written for beginners, had autocomplete, a syntax that made sense out of the box. Plus turtles!

However, I’m revising that assessment now. I still like Small Basic for all those reasons. But the introduction of two new approaches has made me rethink this (and what kind of teacher would I be if I wasn’t always willing reevaluate what I’m doing?). The two new gateways into coding that I’m using are Minecraft and the RaspberryPi. And I can do Python with both.

In some ways, Python isn’t as user-friendly as Small Basic. Indentation can bite you big-time, and while True loops don’t make sense to kids right away. But once you get those concepts at least manageable, and you get used to the syntax, the language itself makes a lot of sense to kids. Also, no curly braces! Plus it’s a language that kids can grow with. It’s a great beginner language, and it scales all the way up to professional. Sure, it’s not Java or C++, but there are jobs out there that require Python. And I have seen students move from Python turtles to Python Minecraft to programming sensors on the Raspberry Pi in Python.

And that’s a huge win. So, for now, I’ve got a new best coding language for beginners!

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4 thoughts on “Finding the best coding language for beginners (revisited)

  1. I definitely agree – Python is the way to go. Easy iteration and powerful data structures such as lists and dictionaries are a bonus. On top of that, there is a standard Turtle module for graphic goodness, and the Tkinter module is great for learning GUI programming. I haven’t tried Python Minecraft, but will look into it – thanks for that!

    I am currently in my second year teaching Python and have never regretted the choice of language. I wrote a little bit about this on my blog last year that might be relevant. http://christianthompson.com/node/33

    Christian

  2. Thanks for the comment, Christian. Love your blog, btw! And definitely look into the Minecraft programming. I love the Adventures in Minecraft book by Martin O’Hanlon and David Whale! But there are other avenues as well — command blocks, ComputerCraft, Javascript…. but I found that Python worked best for me in my classes.

  3. I am a Small Basic and Python kind of guy myself. I favor SB for my “only taking one programming class ever” because it is more fun for them and does some nice programming. If they hang around for a second semester then we dive into Python. I have just started looking at Minecraft as a teaching tool. I will have to look at Python and Minecraft.

  4. Thanks for the comment, Garth. I always enjoy reading your stuff! I do like Small Basic a lot, but I’m finding the “pull” of Minecraft just irresistible! As do my students. So for now it’s what I call “Mython”.

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