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Coding Explainer

What exactly is code?

Our laptops, smartphones and video game consoles are all powerful computers. In fact, modern smartphones have now become millions of times faster than the whole of the NASA computing network that was used to send astronauts to the moon. And behind all of this is something called ‘code’, a mysterious language that’s used to create apps, control robots and is a fundamental building block for almost all new technologies that are being created.

In this article, we’ll debunk exactly what code is, why we need it, and ways to get involved with teaching code in the classroom.

The big problem: computers don’t speak English

The one basic reason that code was created was for us to be able to send instructions to our machines and computers. When computers were originally created, one of their big functions was being able to solve mathematical problems – they were basically used as giant calculators. However, instead of just typing in your calculation using a nice little keypad, people had to either wire or tap instructions inside the computer using a system called binary.

This process was extremely time consuming and meant that it would have just been quicker to get a human to solve the problem they were trying to program.

The idea of code was that we could have a sort of in-between language, crossing English and computer-talk, that would make it easier for humans to communicate with our machines. This new language also meant that we could now send the computers hundreds, even thousands, of calculations to do at the same time, rather than having them physically wired for only one.

Nowadays, code is being used for so much more than doing NASA’s maths homework. It’s used to create new apps and games for your iPhone. It’s running behind the scenes on your favourite social media networks. And when your order a pizza, everything’s taken care of by code.

Originally, there were only a few coding languages used across only a few machines. However, we now have thousands of programming languages with new ones being developed all the time. Each programming language has its own style, and can often be quite different from other programming languages.

Get started with coding in the classroom

Coding and technology have forced us to re-think the way that we interact with others and the world around us. Knowledge of coding is therefore going to be crucial in order to get the jobs of the future. Giving kids a head-start in the classroom is the best way to ensure a strong workforce going into the future.

The award-winning coding kit from EduKits is one of the best ways to get started with coding in the classroom. It makes learning about technology fun and includes over 20 different inventions that students can build and program.

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Parent’s guide to The Amazing Annoyatron

We get a lot of parent’s wondering about whether letting an Amazing Annoyatron into their house is going to be a good thing or not. We say it’s going to be better than good, it’s going to be great!

The Amazing Annoyatron was created to get kids and teens excited about using electronics and coding or at least give it a try. As a parent, there’s a number of ways that you can help your kid get the most out of the kit. The good news is that it’s super-simple, and great fun as well.

1. Be part of the project

Depending on your child’s age, you will probably want to be on hand to help out or just to observe for the first project. To be able to use the Annoyatron you’re going to need some software on your computer which will allow your computer to talk to the programmable board. It’s a bit like when you get a new printer and need to install a printer driver.  There’s a separate program for Windows and for Mac and we give links to it from our Quickstart Guide.

Once you have the software on your computer go to the first project “The Ticking Clock” and make sure you watch the instructional video.

2. Your reactions are key

While the product is called the Amazing Annoyatron, most projects are clever rather than annoying. As a parent, your participation and reaction to the various pranks and gag’s will play a large part in terms of how far your child is willing to push their learning.

3. Ask questions

As your child interacts with the electronics and coding through the Annoyatron be sure to ask plenty of questions.  Things like:

“Your grandfather is coming over, could you make a prank to set off when he approaches the front door”

“Tell me how it works”

“How could you integrate that into one of your lego toys”

“Could you make a more hideous noise come out from your invention”

“How do you think the technology and coding you’ve just done is used in other machines we commonly use”

Wrapping it up

So hopefully you are getting the picture that the Amazing Annoyatron is a social toy. To play a prank or a gag you need to involve other people. You as a parent are the most accessible person and also the most influential in your child’s learning journey.