This week’s Google Doodle teaches kids to code

carrots

Teaching kids how to code has a surprisingly long history, going all the way back to the 1960s and the first programming language designed for children — Logo. On its 50th anniversary, Google’s latest Doodle recalls the game-like Logo with Coding for Carrots. It’s the first ever coding Doodle, and it’s lovely.

Coding for Carrots was created by three teams: Google Doodle, Google Blocky and researchers from MIT Scratch. The Scratch team teach kids how to code by getting them to play games and tell interactive stories, hiding the maths behind whimsy. Scratch uses coding blocks just like the one in Coding for Carrots.

In Coding for Carrots, kids (or adults like myself who like taking care of digital bunnies) must help a rabbit munch on all the carrots in each of the Doodle’s six levels by dragging and dropping blocks of code into a bar, giving the rabbit its instructions. It’s a simple and playful way to present something that might otherwise seem a bit daunting.

Here’s MIT’s Champika Fernando explaining why teaching kids how to code is so important:

Kids programming on computers must have sounded futuristic and impractical in the 1960’s when Logo was first created. In fact, even in the 1980’s when I wrote my first lines of code, my working-class parents questioned how coding would ever benefit their nine-year-old daughter.

Today, computers are used in almost every aspect of our lives. We have them in our homes, at work, and in our pockets. My early experiences with computers gave me confidence that I could create with new technologies, not just interact with them. Those early experiences not only influenced my career path, but provided me with new ways to express my ideas and influence the world around me.

Despite going to several decent schools in the UK and abroad, I wasn’t really given many opportunities to learn this stuff as a kid, and I regret not pushing for them more. I took up game dev as a hobby a wee while ago, and learning the basics has been so much harder now that I’m in my 30s and don’t have that foundation to build on. I wish I’d had something like Coding for Carrots to kickstart my interest earlier.

Google’s coding Doodle will be around for the rest of the week. It’s an example of why we named Google Doodles as one of the best PC games.

23 Comments

  1. chuckieegg says:

    I’m not sure I like this. To get the shortest, approved, solutions, it means that the rabbit must also waste time making illegal moves, or the program must terminate immediately when the last carrot is picked up instead of coming to a natural halt. None of this is failsafe, and its how mistakes (IE Fatalities) creep into the system.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      Problem with setting a scoring mechanism is you end up promoting people/encouraging them to “game” the system.

      Giving multiple requirements, as you said, helps mitigate some of this.

    • ali1234 says:

      Every puzzle can be solved in the requested number of steps to get the trophy, without making illegal moves.

      Premature optimization causes bugs.

  2. Thankmar says:

    To be fair, the Doodle Interface looks more like the Scratch jr. one, but is afaik an alternate view in the upcoming Scratch 3. Google participating in the development of Scratch 3 is something I do not like very much.
    For a longer, more difficult alternative to this with a much more restrained interface and design, have a look at Robots: Create AI, introduced to me on this very side.

    • kidkaracho says:

      According to Steam reviews the game you mention is not saving. Is this still true?
      Or how long is it? It looks appealing to me, but not being able to save is turning me away.

      • Thankmar says:

        It saves fine for me, and it has quite a bunch of puzzles, which ramp up the complexity pretty fast. For the price (its 0.99€) you get a good amount of content.

  3. Premium User Badge

    MajorLag says:

    You know, in the 80s we taught a generation of kids to code by giving them a computer. Back then computers came with a BASIC interpreter and you could do anything with it (because trying to “protect” the computer from its user wasn’t a thing yet). They were completely open platforms that anyone could develop for. They were also incredibly simple. Not easy, mind you, that’s a different thing. Simple. They afforded understanding.

    Nowadays a kid’s first interaction with computing is probably a smartphone. A walled garden with an app store containing only approved apps that you have to pay money and follow guidelines to get into. Apple even expressly prohibits interpreters in its app store. Microsoft is trying hard to make Windows the same way. Linux Desktop has a similar system with package repositories, a hostile and elitist community, and the bonus of being the most Goldbergesque under the surface.

    It’s no wonder that people are growing up thinking programming is some kind of wizardry.

  4. Talahar says:

    In a similar vein to this doodle, there’s also minecraft’s hour of code, which recently released its third installment. link to code.org

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    Drib says:

    I think teaching kids this kind of procedural thinking is good. I’m not sure I’d call it coding, but hey.

    I learned coding initially from reverse engineering GORILLA.BAS and NIBBLES.BAS.

    I’m not sure I’d recommend it.

  6. Bull0 says:

    There’s so many fantastic resources online now. Download Unity.

  7. davebo says:

    Where my 1980’s Turtle learners at?

  8. JarinArenos says:

    Nearly this entire thread is “spoiled damn kids, in my day we coded ten miles barefoot in the snow, uphill both ways!”

  9. Dugular says:

    This wasn’t the first Google Doodle related to coding. They did an Alan Turing one back in 2012, which I really enjoyed. It’s a bit more logical as well if I remember correctly.

    Link: link to google.com

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