Table of Contents


Computer Programming - Designing Interaction Across the Curriculum

Ways to Introduce the Foundational Language of Cyberspace and the Digital Age

  1. Create something other than a square. Change the numbers in the computer program just tried to make the turtle draw different shapes, such as triangles, hexagons and octagons. Do these variations a couple of times.
  2. Print out your finished Web Turtle picture.
  3. Copy your programming instructions in the web turtle language and paste it into a word processor. Save your file and print it out. Could you copy the image into Word and print out both the computer program and its output, the picture?
  4. Staple any multiple sheets together to hand-in to your instructor.
  5. In class, copy and paste your program into an email message to a class partner who should copy from email and paste into their Web Turtle web programming page to see it work.

Scratch Scratch is free and this page provides the links to download versions for the Mac, Linux and Windows operating systems. It extends Logo from a text command driven system to a simple graphical interface in which multimedia elements and actions are assembled like snap-together Lego building blocks, blending animated images, sound and video. It is perhaps the best of class choice for primary grades through middle school for a free introduction to computer programming. Free instruction and lesson plans are available at

The graphic novel Super Scratch Programming Adventure!: Learn to Program By Making Cool Games by The LEAD Project is an excellent starting point for this learning which is available in both paper ($14) and Kindle editions $9.99 and available on all platforms). ScratchEd is an online community that supports and extends Scratch learning.

Designed especially for those age 8 and older, Scratch allows anyone to create their own animated stories, video games and interactive artworks. First made available on May 15, 2007, this "drag and click together" type of composition parallels the design of the programming composition model used by the Lego WeDo and NXT Mindstorms languages and incorporated into the Lego Robotics competition. Many examples of applications written by kids in Scratch can be found at Squeakland (

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Python, a free language to download, may be best used with middle grades and up, but younger students have been able to work with it as well, as the books below indicate.

“Invent Your Own Computer Games with Python” is a also free (as in "open source") and a free eBook (as in, no cost to download), "Each chapter gives you the complete source code for a new game, and then teaches the programming concepts from the example. “Invent with Python” was written to be understandable by kids as young as 10 to 12 years old, although it is great for anyone of any age who has never programmed before. The second edition has revised and expanded content, including a Pygame tutorial to make games with graphics, animation, and sound."

A number of other free and commercial books are available to support this learning. "Snake Wrangling for Kids: Learning to Program with Python" is a book for 8 year olds and older that is free to print or can be bought already printed and bound online (e.g., See the Snake Wrangling book review by by Mark Frauenfelder. Other books include Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming by Jason R. Briggs and Hello World! Computer Programming for Kids and Other Beginners by Warren Sande and Carter Sande.

A list of many other Python resources is also available:


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Javascript and Seaside

At a slightly higher level of skills, many web page creators are inserting free Javascript programs directly into their web pages or building highly interactive web applications with Seaside.

The ability to run the Javascript programming language is built in to most web browsers. The best and most complete online learning environment for learning Javascript is found in Khan Academy's Computer Science tutorials. This programming can be learned and done totally online without downloading and installing any computer application.

Combined with other tools Javascript can be used to implement gaming activities. For example, "HTML5 Games: Creating Fun with HTML5, CSS3, and WebGL". This book shows how to build 2D and 3D games with HTML5 combined with CSS3 and WebGL tools. These can be used "to create beautiful, unique, engaging games that can be played on the web or mobile devices like the iPad or Android phones".

The Web Site Code Hero takes Javascript to even higher levels by teaching Javascript programming as a game while learning how to write code that will build computer games using the Unity3D gaming engine which provides 2D and 3D image control for a wide range of games for all mobile and desktop platforms.

Numerous other sites are available for teaching the basics of javascript. Western Carolina University now teaches Javascript in its Computer Science 130 course. Javascript skills were essential in creating the thousands of online calculators at Martindale's site. For more, search the web and libraries for "javascript" and "javascript tutorial" to find further helpful information on the topic of javascript programming.




There are other good beginner programming resources as well, which are expensive compared to free, but excellent and within reach of many school budgets. Some involve significant community support and are widely used. Over ten-thousand teams from around the world participate in team competitions which use programming and robot systems to directly involve K-12 students in different age level divisions. There are primary grades, 4th-8th grades and high school divisions. This knowledge and experience is often used to motivate and recruit students for STEM activities and careers. RoboGals, a global and college aged professional organization, takes particular advantage of the high interest level for robotics.

One of the most famous organizations with the goal of teaching about sensors, robotics and interaction is FIRST League, for children ages 9-14. A new theme is created for the competition each year, which have included climate change, energy, oceans and many more. As seen in the picture on the right, the robotic playing field mat and Lego bricks are used to created a 4' by 8' creative play space to try out various programs designs for the robot. (Clicking the picture leads to a more detailed story.) This space is also used to compete in time trials to show how well their robot designs have been programmed to carry out a range of tasks. Teams must also research the topic and prepare a skit or presentation that describes a solution for the theme of the year, and demonstrate to judges their teamwork based problem solving skills.


CHERP ( is "a hybrid tangible/graphical computer language designed to provide an engaging introduction to computer programming for young children in both formal and informal educational settings. With CHERP you can create programs for robots like the LEGO Mindstorms RCX and Lego WeDo, as well as the KIWI research prototype. CHERP was developed with funding from the National Science Foundation ( NSF grant # DRL-0735657 ) by the Developmental Technologies Group at Tufts University."




Chapter Parent Frame  |  Version 1.24 Updated 3/1/2013 |  Page author: Houghton