learning about programming through my daughter’s eyes


i am a valley kid, born and raised. now, as a parent living in the valley, i wonder about my five-year old daughter and how she will be able to pursue an interest in computers, mathematics, programming, and hacking — if she so desires, of course. what my daughter doesn’t know is that, not too long ago, her dad (me) was hacking on computers not too far from where we live today as a kid. during that time, working on computers was far less trendy and romantic. i first taught myself basic on an apple 2+ then later on pascal. i was then taught turtle logo as a part of a special program at school, which while it felt a bit of a regression from basic i could see how it was a decent environment to teach others to program. for me, during that time, the motivation was to write games.


now, fast-forward to today, i see my daughter use an ipad effortlessly. and, i want to make sure she has access to resources and tools to experiment with, should she be so inclined to go beyond using the apps. i’ve checked out hopscotch. there is scratch from mit. there are local groups who are providing a space for kids to explore. whatever my daughter chooses, my hope is that there’s creativity — in art, or athletics, or music….or computers.


how will kids today learn how to hack? while games were my motivation (as well as breaking the security on the games in order to copy them and exchange with friends), it provided a discovery platform. there were no limits. no directions (at least from my parents). yet my friends and i would spend hours removing the copy protection and then adding a  “cracked by…” as the game loaded.


legos today have directions – legos when i was a kid did not. in our current environment, how do we maintain that environment of endless possibilities? in the near future, i believe everyone will need to be able to program – much like learning another language. obviously, there will variations of the depth of this learning – but the ability to apply logic/reason and assemble a set of commands/functions to perform an activity is great on many levels.


my daughter was also an inspiration for me to initiate the women in engineering effort while i was at twitter – which has been amazing to see grow and flourish with each passing month. so awesome! we need to get more women in computer science and math  – so i am at least going to expose my daughter to what can be done – if she so choses that path. ironically for  me – because i spent so much of my childhood on a computer i rebelled in high school a bit and wanted to check out biochemsitry/molecular biology. but over time….returned to my roots and frankly i was better at programming than primary research. the current app that i am working with olivia on an ipad with is hopscotch – http://www.gethopscotch.com – she loves the idea of building her own game. and, as she gets older, i’ve heard of slightly older kids messing around with raspberry pi projects. and, there’s this whole subculture of kids playing minecraft and hacking those games to bend to their tastes.


i’m curious, if you have young kids, how do you seem them interacting with computers, and what sites, programs, resources, or groups have you seen? what are folks doing with raspberry pi and minecraft? i’m eager to connect with folks who are interested in this and to learn more, and of course, to help come up with more and more creative ways for the youth in the area to be exposed to this new language.

17 thoughts on “learning about programming through my daughter’s eyes

  1. my boys, 9 and 13 found out about minecraft from talking to friends @ school. They watch youtube videos to figure out how to do things. My dilemma is finding ways to take this interest to the next level as I don’t have a coding background and can’t provide any guidance.

  2. My daughter’s absolutely love creating things in Minecraft (and Legos). Can’t wait for them to try out Hopscotch. We sat down and created a game she wanted to build a few months ago:

    http://guessyournumber.meteor.com (https://github.com/spullara/guessyournumber)

    Meteor had the smallest cognitive footprint of the languages and frameworks that can make somewhat complicated web applications. Still looking for a better alternative for making interactive web sites for kids.

  3. Heya — I’ve been thinking about this a ton, haven’t found anything that quite matches what I want to do yet. Topic for a brainstorm sometime. Would love to get your input too!

  4. I was a hacker when I was a kid. Taught myself assembler so I could figure out how games worked, then modify them.

    My daughter does a little coding at school (she’s nine) and enjoys it, but she’s more interested in art. On the other hand she wants to help me with my work and she likes the creative side of it, where you figure stuff out and get to see it working.

    • thanks for sharing steve – i think that that artistic component of software is often lost in our discussions. there is a deeply creative aspect to building software!

  5. This is very cool — 5 is quite young to be programming so we’re impressed you guys were able to get started with it. We want Hopscotch to inspire the same sort of creativity and desire to tinker that the Apple II did back in the 80′s.

    Stay tuned- Hopscotch is brand new and there’s lots more coming!

  6. Hi Mike, This is a topic which I have often thought about as well. My daughter (ten) loves to build 3D paper models and write stories. My attempts to introduce her to online means to express her creativity have met with varying degrees of success over the years. Lately she has tried out Looking Glass (https://lookingglass.wustl.edu/) and spent a fair amount of time with it.
    Also have plans to work on a raspberry pi project with her in the next month.
    I believe wearable technology will be a big component in the lives of these kids and will likely drive their major interactions with technology.

    • strongly agree with your wearable comment – will be fascinating to see how the market evolves. i will check out looking glass (thanks for sending)

      i have been doing a couple of my own raspberry pi projects – a remarkable platform. feels like the next-gen heath kit equivalent

  7. My 10 year old son just completed his first day of Tynker (http://www.tynker.com/) camp and was fairly excited about the ease of use in building games. Will know by the end of the week if he is inspired to continue “tynkering” at home.

  8. Enjoyed reading the information, Thanks,, My 5 and 3 boys seem to master the Ipad but need to find them new games to challenge there creative thinking. Looking forward to checking out these sites and installing them.. He seems stuck on angry birds videos..c

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