At SchoolSphero Staff
A student uses block coding for kids in the Sphero Edu app to program a Sphero BOLT robot.

Learning programming gives kids critical skills in an increasingly digital world, but standard text-based programming languages can be a challenge for people of all ages. Block-based coding can be the solution that makes the learning curve more gradual. Not only is it fun to learn, but it also provides a sound foundation for learning other programming technologies.

What Is Block-Based Coding?

The learning curve involved in learning a text-based programming language is what urged MIT to develop block-based coding, and it has since become the de facto way of teaching kids how to code. Block-based coding uses a visual learning environment where actual blocks in the editor represent blocks of code.

Two kids use block coding on a tablet and smartphone to code their Sphero BOLT programmable robots.

Using block-based coding, kids can learn programming basics without getting held back by learning syntax ins-and-outs. By dragging and dropping interconnecting blocks, they can build up working programs one step at a time. Once they get the basic programming concepts, they can move on to a text-based language like JavaScript with the base knowledge they need to progress quickly.

What Can Blocks Do?

Block-based coding platforms come with an extensive library of blocks that students can use to create their software. Each block is shaped like a puzzle piece that fits logically with other blocks. Developers fit blocks together in the drag-and-drop visual development environment to create working software. Here are some blocks you might encounter:

Movement Blocks

Movement blocks can connect to robots and devices and control their movement, telling them how far to move and where to turn.

Sensor Blocks

Sensor blocks can connect to the sensors a robot or device may have. Once connected, the data from the sensors can determine logic. For example, if a sensor detects an object in the robot’s path, then you can trigger movements around the object.

Sound Blocks

Sound blocks connect to a device’s speakers and allow you to play sounds or transform text to speech and then play the result.

There are even more types of blocks you can use to create a full program. Here are some:

  • Light: Controls the LEDs on devices.
  • Controls: Handles conditional logic (if this, then that).
  • Operators: Math functions to create or change numerical values.
  • Comparators: Compares two values and can apply conditional logic.
  • Communications: Controls sending and receiving IR on devices.
  • Events: Embeds conditional logic into reusable functions.
  • Variables: Creates values that limit redundant logic.
  • Functions: Helps organize any complexity in your software.

What Can Kids Do with Block-Based Coding?

Once students learn the basics of how coding blocks function, they can use their imagination to mix and match them to bring their creations to life.

Kids can learn the basics of programming and robotics with a robot as simple as the Sphero Mini. They can build their mazes, tunnels, and ramps and use block-based coding to navigate their bot through the obstacles while debugging their code logic.

A person uses block coding for kids in the Sphero Edu app to program their Sphero Mini through a maze.

For more advanced block programming, students can choose the Sphero RVR, which comes packed with advanced sensors and can get upgraded with third-party hardware. Using the built-in sensors, including a color sensor, light sensor, IR, magnetometer, accelerometer, and gyroscope, kids can expand their block programming skills with a robot that can sense the world around them.

Learning to program with visual syntax that interacts with objects in the real world will spark the interest of beginning programmers and inspire them to create new projects of their own.

Learn More About Block Coding for Kids

Software runs just about everything, and every company is a software company at some level, so it helps if kids have some programming skills to navigate the world and their future careers. Block-based coding makes the learning process easier by replacing the complexity of text-based code with visual block-based code. To get started learning block-based coding today, download the Sphero Edu app. Kids can try the Drive or Draw programs ion the app first, and then move up to Block coding, and eventually graduate to text coding in Javascript.

References

Ryan, B., Ryan, Virginia, Kendall, Pete, ID Tech, . . . Alycia. (n.d.). What is block coding for kids?: How drag-and-drop helps teach coding. Retrieved from https://www.idtech.com/blog/what-is-block-based-coding#:~:text=Block%2Dbased%20coding%20utilizes%20a,that%20is%20based%20in%20text.

Scratch. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://en.scratch-wiki.info/wiki/Scratch
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