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Are you looking for ways to help your kids learn more about computers and computer programming? There are a lot of options out there with many companies offering courses and products to suit just about every need and interest. Many of these skills can be learned through free online programs and some extra books and hardware. Below is a working list of the things we’ve used. It’s always growing as our kids get older and gain skills. Enjoy Resources for Putting the Technology in STEM.
Programs & Websites for Technology
These are all websites with programs and courses which will help you and your students to discover more about the world of computer programming. Many of these are free. One thing to note is that Linux and Windows are much easier to use for “fiddling”.
- Scratch– We’ve been using Scratch for years to teach the basics of computer programming. They’ve expanded since they first started and there’s loads to try. This is a free program developed by MIT.
- Alice– Is an introduction to 3D modeling for kids.
- Blender– This software is designed for video editing, animation, game making, and programming in Python.
- Khan Academy Hour of Code– Khan Academy provides free instruction on all sorts of math and computer programming. Hour of code is just one course in getting started with coding basics.
- Khan Academy Pixar in a Box (Introduction to Animation)– Newer to Khan Academy is Pixar in a Box which explores the world of animation. This is a popular course at the Academy. Check it out!
- Autodesk Software– Autocad, Mudbox, Maya, 123D, and Inventor are all available for free in the student version from HSLDA. This link is to the free student version if you meet requirements (not sure what those are). If you are a member of HSLDA already, you have this benefit. Check it out!
- Learn to Mod– Minecraft modding software with a community and tutorials for learning to make mods for Minecraft.
Book Resources for Learning Technology
Joshua spends hours reading through manuals and trying new things. If he wants to tackle something new, he will often get a manual and start reading. Here are a few of his favorites:
- Beginning C++ through Game Programming– This was part of his C++ phase and he enjoys making and modding games.
- C++ Programming in Easy Steps– He loves this one as a reference when he needs a hand.
- Hacking Your LEGO Mindstorm EV3– For this you need an Arduino shield, but it allows you to bypass the Mindstorms OS and program with other software.
- Building Minecraft Server Modifications– Setting up servers for friends to play on and creating mods
- Head First Java– Head First manuals are great because they are easy reads and have workbook exercises to go with them. This one satisfied Joshua’s desire to learn Java.
- Make Magazine– If you have a maker in your house, this is the magazine for you! We get the print version as well as the digital and everyone in the house loves it.
- Make Blog & Newsletter– This free newsletter is full of inspiration and often has projects with household items and techy things like Raspberry Pi or Arduino.
Hardware for Learning Technology
Of course, fun technology wouldn’t be complete without the hardware to program. These are all avenues we’ve explored in our house. They each have their unique niche and provide a lot of open ended technology opportunities.
- Raspberry Pi– This is a low cost, credit card sized computer that plugs into a monitor or TV and uses a keyboard and mouse. It can do anything you’d expect a desktop computer to do, but lets your computer programmer have tons of fun. We bought this starter kit from CanaKit.
- Arduino– An open source electronics platform based on easy to use hardware and software. Joshua has had an Uno for a year and enjoys trying projects with it.
- LEGO Mindstorms– This is a computer which can connect to LEGO technic pieces. You can build robots and motorized contraptions with the pieces and motors which are told what to do from the Mindstorms brick. We bought the retail kit from Amazon, but there is an education kit as well. Not sure which to buy? Check out this post on the Home vs Education kit.
- Bootable Linux– You can burn CDs of the Linux OS that you can boot off of in your regular computer and whatever sandbox work your kids do there, won’t affect your PC. Linux is an open source OS offered at no cost.
Other Technology Posts at Blog, She Wrote
If you are new to Blog, She Wrote or if you’ve missed some of these along the way, you’ll want to read up on how we use technology in our homeschool.
- 10 (or so) Best Tinkering Gifts for Your Inventor– Books, building essentials, hardware and software for your tinkering kids.
- Resources for Teaching with LEGO Mindstorms– Books and websites for using LEGO Mindstorms
- Make a Marble Speed Trap with LEGO Mindstorms– How to use Mindstorm sensors to track a marble and determine its speed.
- How to Incorporate Technology in Your Homeschool– A round up of tech posts here at Blog, She Wrote including ways to use it and some new ideas for using some tried and true technology.
I will continue to share some of the projects we do with this technology. Look for more STEM posts here at Blog, She Wrote.