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Gidget: A 21st Century Approach to Programming Literacy

Gidget: A 21st Century Approach to Programming Literacy

Over the past two years, iSchool Ph.D. stu­dent Mike Lee has been work­ing on Gid­get, a game designed to teach computer programming concepts to kids and teens through debugging puzzles. Gid­get is now avail­able for any­one to play at www.helpgidget.com. Give it a try!

The game takes a very dif­fer­ent approach than exist­ing learn­ing tech­nolo­gies for pro­gram­ming. Rather than try­ing to moti­vate kids through cre­ativ­ity (as in Scratch and Alice), pro­vide instruc­tion through tuto­ri­als (like Kahn Acad­emy and Codecad­emy), or inject pro­gram­ming into tra­di­tional game mechan­ics (as in Code­Com­bat or Light­Bot), Gid­get attempts to trans­late pro­gram­ming itself into a game by pro­vid­ing a sequence of puz­zles for learn­ers to solve. The game aims to teach play­ers that com­put­ers are not omni­scient, flaw­less, and intel­li­gent machines, but rather fast, reli­able, and mostly igno­rant machines that can solve problems. The game’s goal is not nec­es­sarily for play­ers to learn to code (though this does hap­pen), but to teach play­ers that pro­gram­mers can inject soft­ware with their own magic.

This work is part of a much larger national con­ver­sa­tion about pro­gram­ming and dig­i­tal lit­er­acy. The basic obser­va­tion, which many have noted over the past two decades, is that pro­fes­sional pro­gram­mers aren’t the only peo­ple who pro­gram. Any­one who has to manip­u­late large vol­umes of infor­ma­tion is at some point going to write a pro­gram. Gid­get is explic­itly designed to give any­one with an inter­est in know­ing more about pro­gram­ming, the con­fi­dence they need to learn more.

Try the game your­self. Share it with your kids. If you teach a computer science class, give it to your stu­dents as their first assign­ment. Feel free to send the creators feed­back in the game directly.

(Editor’s note: A version of this article originally appeared on Bits and Behavior, iSchool Assistant Professor Andrew Ko’s blog.)

About Amy Ko

Amy Ko's interests span human-computer interaction, software engineering, and computing education.

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