Making JavaScript accessible to children

Over the last five weeks in one of our online coding clubs a group of Year 5 and 6 students have been making Apps using the JavaScript language.

Most of this particular group have been coding with Scratch for sometime and have a good understanding of basic computer programming principles. Most of them have also been learning online together since March 2020.

Learning to program in JavaScript is very different from making projects in Scratch. For a start, the children need to type in code and build an understanding of some of the issues that always come up when using text based programming – that is, bugs and how to debug.

The group have also learned about coordinates, variables and functions, and used the knowledge they have gained to make their own Apps and interact with them. I’m grateful to Bitsbox for creating a fantastic platform that provides fun characters and scenes for playing with.

It has been rewarding for me to witness how the children have understood the concepts quickly and applied them to their own projects.

There’s also little doubt that this group have developed their digital skills over many months of learning and collaborating together online. It’s great to see how comfortable they are using online chat and sharing their projects with their peers.

Well done to everyone that took part. Next term the children will be learning how to program the micro:bit.

Making retro arcade games

I always encourage my students to make games when learning to program. They have to think about the aim of the game, the characters, the controls, the visual effects, and so on. Once they know all the basics, they can create their own and experiment.

Our group of Year 7 & 8 students have learned how to make Arcade games with Microsoft Make Code Arcade. This is a step up from Scratch programming.

Using Make Code, the students create their own characters pixel by pixel – and then program it to control the game. Although the students use block programming, they can view their code in JavaScript or Python which helps them to understand how the code works under the hood.

We had a full term packed full of activities that led to a final ‘space shooter’ game where the students put everything they learned into practice. They created some fantastic games featuring some great characters.

We have two new coding clubs for Years 7 – 9 starting in November 2020:
Make Mobile Apps
Introduction to Python

Making Apps with JavaScript

JavaScript is the programming language that powers the web. It adds interactivity to a website and applications are written in JavaScript everyday – ranging from a single page application, games, apps, programming drones to the Internet of things.

At Coding Club, the children have been learning how to program apps with JavaScript using Bitsbox. Bitsbox is a paid online learning application, but anyone can sign up and start using the free tutorials or the hour of code. They also offer a monthly subscription with lost of goodies.

The Bitsbox interface consists of a phone simulator and a text editor, so the results can be seen straight away. A QR code can also be scanned so the apps can run on a phone or tablet. This is a great way to introduce text-based programming to young people.

Most children in Year 4 and above who are confident with Scratch should be able to write apps with JavaScript and understand the concepts. Bixtbox has definitely been a big hit with the kids.

Making apps with JavaScript