How can a group of kids multiply their creativity by learning to code?

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Recently we have decided to put Belgium on the map by introducing computer programming to kids by using the wonderful and child-friendly, multilingual Scratch programming environment. And what time could be better than the International Scratch Day 2012 for this mission? Thanks to the facilities and support provided by Antwerp International School, not only the students from this school, but also children from other parts of the Antwerp were able to join this one-day introductory workshop.

I had a lot of fun by watching the immense creativity of children from 9-year olds to 13-year olds. Before the workshop started I had some doubts, but the enthusiasm of the children, especially after learning the simplest programming concepts, and seeing that they could easily apply these to colorful graphics and sounds, had a powerful and multiplying effect on them. Another nice aspect of the event was the collaboration between children, between boys and girls; in order to help each other overcome some technical challenges. You can visit http://scratch.mit.edu/users/scratchdaybelgium12 to see a sample of the projects created by the children during the day.

One of the many projects created on the International Scratch Day 2012 @ Antwerp, Belgium

One of the many projects created on the International Scratch Day 2012 @ Antwerp, Belgium

The event lasted slightly more than 3 hours, and it turned out to be above my expectations: at the end of the day, we had to scratch the kids off the computers so that they could go home, and of course continue coding there, using what they learned that day and what they are going to learn in the upcoming days, with the help of Scratch community.

I hope this event is going to inspire similar events, because I believe in the importance of introducing computational thinking concepts and patterns to children from a very early age, so that they can be computational problem solvers in any field they choose to study in the future. I think this also means going beyond merely being a “digital  native”, and becoming a producer of ideas and implementations rather than just being a passive consumer of Internet entertainment and data explosion.

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De Olifant in het Bad: Een interactieve iPad boek voor kinderen

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De olifant in het bad is een interactief boek voor kinderen tussen 1 en 10 jaar oud. Het verhaal gaat over een meisje, Zara en een olifant. Zara hoort een gedruppel in het huis. Vanwaar zou dit toch komen? Is er een olifant in het bad misschien?

Laat je kind ermee spelen! Belletjes ploffen, de bal gooien, verschillende gereedschappen gebruiken om het bad te herstellen, de olifant meehelpen… Ontdek het verborgen object op elke pagina. Vind je het haar van Zara niet leuk? Verander het dan maar… Je kan zelfs de zon verplaatsen.

Het originele versie van het boek is in het Engels. Het is vertaald en verteld door Tanya Gezgen zodat Nederlandstalige kinderen er ook veel plezier aan kunnen beleven.

Zara: de beste vriend van de olifant

Zara: de beste vriend van de olifant

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Let’s put Belgium on the map: International Scratch Day 2012 @ Antwerp

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Let’s put Belgium on the map: International Scratch Day 2012 @ Antwerp, Belgium

This is a free workshop for kids who want to step into the wonderful world of programming, creativity and computational thinking. For more information please visit http://day.scratch.mit.edu/event/593

International Scratch Day 2012 @ Antwerp, Belgium

International Scratch Day 2012 @ Antwerp, Belgium

International Scratch Day 2012 @ Antwerp, Belgium

International Scratch Day 2012 @ Antwerp, Belgium

The Missing Manual for Your Baby

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Your Baby and Child

Your Baby and Child

When I heard that I’d be a father for the first time in my life, I had mixed feelings and started to ask myself a lot of questions. One of the questions I still ask myself is very simple: The baby arrived home safely and then what? In other words, where’s the documentation for the most complex entity that I’ll interact for a long time? I guess it is natural to ask this kind of question because I’m a professional software developer and having been involved with computers for the last 20 years, I’m used to reading some detailed documentation before and during my interaction with things that I’m not familiar with. And I’m definitely not familiar with raising a baby (having a younger brother does not count, that was about 30 years ago and I don’t remember much about the basics).

When I mentioned this to Chris Stephenson, former head of computer science department of Istanbul Bilgi University whom I had the privilege to work with and the experienced father of a wonderful child, he said that there was one book which he gave as a gift to every young parent expecting a child. Based on his advice I decided to buy and read “Your Baby and Child”. And I’m very glad that I did.

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