Pique a Child's Interest in Computers

ComputerCredit: javrsmith

It's important for children to learn about computers. Not how to run them, they already know how to do that. They should learn how to control them. That's where this article comes in. This is designed to be the first lesson that a child has had about computer programming. It is going to be easy and fun for them. If it is too difficult to understand, then it hasn't been successful. I would appreciate comments that might make this easier and funner for children. Let's get started on the first programming lesson for children.

What is a computer?
Not what can it do

A computer is a universal machine. That means it is able to do whatever we ask it to do. It needs a program to tell it what to do. If we want to display words on a computer screen, we need to connect the computer to a monitor. We need another program to tell the computer how to control the monitor. Luckily, you don't need to write the monitor control program. That has already been done for you.

In fact, the number of programs that you can use is huge. Your Windows or Mac operating system is a program. These are called operating systems. They are actually made up of a lot of small programs working together. The programs help you by controlling the monitor, the printer, the keyboard, hard disk and anything else that is connected to the computer. Someday, you may want to build a new device and connect it to your computer. You can do that, but you will also have to write a program to tell the computer how to control your new device. Maybe you could make a robotic arm and a controlling program for it. Start planning because there is no reason why you couldn't do it.

How to get Started in Computer Programming
Basics of files, source code, etc

Computer programs are written in an English-like text. A file is created into which the computer program steps are written. The file is saved and then processed by the computer. Computers are not able to process the steps directly so they must be translated, or interpreted, into executable steps. The type of the file is important.

Computers make assumptions about file contents based on the file type, also known as the file extension. Documents may have a file type of "DOC". Spreadsheets may be "XLS". Programs might be "HTML", "PHP", "C" or another type that specific to the programming language. Usually submitting a program to the computer with a file type of "DOC", for example, will not be successful. 

Simple Ways to Work

To create a file, you can use Notepad. Simply use the Windows start button, open "All programs", then "Accessories" and select the "Notepad" icon. Enter the lines as shown below:


  1. <b>My HTML Program</b><br>
  3. This is my first HTML code.<br>

Save the file as "first.html" in the documents folder.

This small HTML program includes these tags:

- Bold. Makes all subsequent text render in bold font.

- Break. Causes a new line. Makes all subsequent text start on the next line.

- End Bold. Makes all subsequent text render NOT in bold font.

My HTML Program

This is my first HTML code.

Run Your First Program
Open via your Internet browser

With the browser, select the menu "File", "Open File". In the filename box, enter "first.html". Click the open button. Your new html program will be opened by the browser and executed. This means that the computer will display the file contents, processing any codes that you have included.

Save the file as "first.html" in the documents folder.

Run Your First Program

Open via your Internet browser

With the browser, select the menu "File", "Open File". In the filename box, enter "first.html". Click the open button. Your new html program will be opened by the browser and executed. This means that the computer will display the file contents, processing any codes that you have included.

In this case, the first line displayed is in bold text and the second is regular text. The "br" tag stands for "break" and it makes the browser put the second sentence on a new line. Without the "br" tag, the program would display as:

Can you figure out why this might be?

The computer browser is doing exactly what we specify.

Experiment With HTML

Using the first.html program, try experimenting with HTML by changing tags. Here is a list of things to try:

1) In the first line, change the "B" to "U" to see the text underlined instead.

2) In the second line, add "" to the beginning of the sentence.

3) In the first line, remove the / B tag and watch what happens.

4) Add more lines with B and U tags.

Computer ProgrammingCredit: javrsmith

Next Steps

It is important for children to realize that they control the computer. They also need to know that people have developed programs that make computers perform all of the wonderful things they do. This is not magic.

Computers are the implementation of a great many technologies, machine and programming, that have merged into the modern devices. Everything is controlled by programs, or software. The hardware gives us an amazing capability to process faster, and prettier, than ever before. But it is software that people develop that really makes the computer perform.

Rather than simply being computer users, all of us can take steps towards being programmers. The process is not easy, but it can be done in small steps. Whether children work in the development field or not, it can still be important for them to understand the process. They will be using computers for their whole lives so knowing what makes them work is a great skill to have.

Binary Basics

Learn HTML

Who Can Program?

Which Language to Learn?

There are many programming languages to choose from. Which to learn is a very subjective topic. If there is a computer programmer in the family, find out what they use. It may be helpful to pick the same one. If you can get ready access to a tutor, you can speed the learning process.

Without someone to learn from, the field is wide open. BASIC is a good choice as it has always been intended for people new to technology. PHP is excellent since WordPress uses it. WordPress is the most important web site builder on the Internet today. Other good choices include "C", Java and Javascript. These are more involved but are standards in industry.

Programming languagesCredit: javrsmith

Learn JavaScript

Setting Up a Learning Plan

It can be quite a challenge to start learning about technology. There are decades of advancements in place. As a new person, you have a great number of unknowns. Luckily, many of them can be safely ignored. For example, FORTRAN was a very popular language. You may never learn or use it and that is just fine. Similarly, COBOL, APL, and others, can be ignored in favor of SQL, PHP, and Javascript. 

The important thing is to get started learning about technology, not just how to use it. There is a lot of satisfaction to be gained as well. Even the simple act of coding a small input form on a window represents successful work. In time, such a small accomplishment can be expanded. 

Since we walk before we run, be sure to check the simplest topics thoroughly before attempting to go on to more difficult ones. Learn about variables, constants, assignments, and digital logic. These will form the basis of your use of technology regardless of your development environment.[1]