Self | K-5 |ing 665x335

The old indoctrination starts early, so the pushback has to start early as well. For example, even pre-schoolers who do not celebrate Christmas get lured left onto the Clement Moore path by our wider society: a path where everything happens one step (or one chimney) at a time, like a machine. The sooner they get off that sled, the better prepared our children will be. Age Four is not too soon. 

The First Fork: 'Rithmetick or Robot

First Choice

Preschoolers can either start to understand addition and get a head start on their bricks-and-books schooling, or start to program their own robot and get a head start on the programming skills needed to understand life. The KIBO robot is wonderfully accessible because it involves no screen time. The programming is physical. Kids assemble blocks that tell their KIBO how to scurry around the floor. 

It may seem simple, but everything children learn from KIBO—including commands, loops, and conditionals— still applies when they get to college and major in computer science. Nothing is fake. Tell me more about Ground Floor Robots for pre-schoolers.

Most Kids Will Master the Basic KIBO By the Age of Six and Be Ready For the Next Step. There Are Three Choices:

  • Take a break from programming per se and focus instead on how to make video games.
  • Continue to use robots to develop programming skills.
  • Elevate the focus to story-telling, applying new programming skills to do so.

Story-telling is the path of choice.  Facility with stories and with programming place the "three R's" of the old grammar school days when life changed so slowly. Understanding and telling stories supersedes mere reading' and writin'. Programming completely replaces 'rithmetick.

The Choices

KIBO need not disappear as the focus shifts to the ScratchJr language and its digital story-telling. Upgrading a basic KIBO 10 to KIBO 14 or 18 adds sensors. Now the robot can see and hear and make decisions based on these inputs. KIBO and ScratchJr were developed jointly so they work together. And for kids who want to stay on this track, KIBO leads directly into the Lego® MindStorms® robots which are even more sophisticated. Tell me more about Responsive Robots for elementary self schoolers.

For kids who skipped the KIBO stage, or who found its programming side uninteresting, there is the option of setting the whole procedural literacy thing aside for a few years and working on designing video games. There are some very nice packages available, including one associated with pbsKIDS and one offering a path back to programming in the middle school years, but both are tilted toward the old STEM habits of thought. Tell me more about going From Games To STEM.

The trifecta of elementary education lies, however, in digital story-telling. Kids need to understand stories about the past (perhaps under the heading of "history") to help them understand life today. They need to be able to tell stories of their own because that is what we all do as we try to pick the best options for an uncertain future tomorrow. And they need to be procedurally literate—able to read and write programs—just to stay afloat in that uncertain tomorrow. ScratchJr and Scratch are particularly relevant languages for digital story-telling because they encourage the use of multiple actors that interact with each other in parallel, just like life. Ten Santas on the stage at once? No problem.

Tell me more about Digital Story-telling. Or, first, remind me why early story-telling matters, and needs to come early in the 21st-century child's development.