My first session of 4th graders used Code Combat on the first day, and they loved it.
I was thinking about using Code Combat through my whole session, as a way to introduce programming, because the kids loved the site so much.
But, there are issues.
* The browser loses focus. Kids don't touch type so they don't notice this until they have been typing for a few minutes sometimes(?!)
* They just get stuck and need someone to help them. At the elementary school age level, they have about 5 minutes of total patience before they stop. They don't "rage quit" like middle school kids would, they just start goofing around.
I think these are resolvable issues, and I actually think the Olark idea is a fairly good one.
In the end, I ended up using MIT Scratch to teach most of the class. It got rid of the syntactical issues, and lets them express their creativity visually and with sounds as well.
It has its own set of issues too though since it's a visual language and some things are just hard.
That said, I'm still excited about Code Combat and watching developments closely. Keep it up guys! All the kids want to keep coding so maybe I'll try again in January!
FYI - Here's more info about that particular class: http://douglastarr.com/coding-class-week-1/
Here are some responses to the problems:
* When you the browser loses focus, do you mean the code editor or the entire browser? Also, have you kids had any problems with backspace taking them to the previous page? We're trying to diagnose the latter problem and can't reliably reproduce it, but know that it's causing users a lot of frustration.
* Syntax is actually our hardest problem for new players, and we're considering ways to make it easier for people to get into the game. One idea is to shorten the method names (say to this.attack(); rather than this.attackNearbyEnemy();) enabling drag and drop or click and insert from the spell editor, etc. Do you have any specific recommendations for changes we might make?
* We're definitely shielded from the distraction-quits since our UX testing sessions tend to be either paid or semi-compulsory (classroom time), but I imagine this is a big problem. Do you find that there's a point of reliable minimum interest among players? Say during a particular level or challenge?
Again, thanks a lot for so deeply engaging and getting us some areas to work on. If you are interested, we'd love to have someone as communicative and engaged working on the open source when it gets released (hopefully in the next week or so)!
Do you think the trolling had any effect on Americans being the worst programmers. Or were the Americans who tried coding truly "the worst." How did you determine Americans were even the ones you were talking to (by time zone?). I would like to see some data for the total students who participated by each country.
Also, I do not know how many languages do they support. However, if it is only english, almost all international participating kids are someone who learned foreign language. Which rules out worst cases.
As far as I know, there was huge campaign in usa involving president and "everybody has to code" slogans. As far as I know, there was no such thing elsewhere.
I'm not sure if the trolling was related to programming ability to be honest, I suspect that there was a strong selection effect: because most of the traffic was America, there were more American trolls, and because the trolls complained the most, we saw their code the most and the correlation was stark. As we mentioned in the blog, there were plenty of reasonable, interesting kids, but the ratio was pretty skewed towards trolls.
We edited out the location data (since it didn't really add much to the post), but it was about 85% American, 3% UK, 2% Canadian, and the remaining 10% was international with no strong traffic source leading the pack.
The fact that the game is in English and "only partially localized" also contributes, as there is probably an inverse correlation between "tendency to troll" and "ability to learn a foreign language and play unlocalized web games."
Now, I don't doubt for a minute that Americans are the best trolls and worst programmers, but it seems disingenuous to use this data to throw more firewood on the "Americans are illiterate boors" pyre.
Thanks for the response. I was unable to attend the Hour of Code my company did for a few local schools.
In middle school we had a two week section on computers and programming, which I absolutely devoured. But I didn't have access to the computer lab again in middle school, the two high schools I attended didn't even have computer labs, and my family wouldn't own a computer until more than a decade later. :-(
But as a programmer, awesome job Code Combat! Your turnout was pretty inspiring. I'm a little sad at the observation that American kids were such trolls though. I mean, I don't know what I expected; I meet them all the time in online video games. I guess I just had hoped the ones that would come across a code competition and be interested enough to click would also be mature enough to show some restraint.
But this part sort of took my breath away:
> COD is Call of Duty, the latest ultra-violent first person shooter which kids are playing at a rate of more than a millennium per day.
Am I the only one who finds this number mind-boggling?
I'm not sure that COD is "ultra-violent". It is violent of course, but not much more then an average action movie.
Killed guys in COD are just pictures - they have no personality or story. The action is in context of warfare and no one there is believably "good" and "bad". Only better at shooting.
I do not think you can judge violence in such simple way. To use analogy, the movie reservoir dogs has scene with ear cutting where nobody dies. That scene is way more violent and disturbing then dozens of killed enemies by James Bond.
Basically you're pretending to be a terrorist, you have to shoot up an airport full of civilians (who die very realistically, beg for their lives, etc.), and then at the end of the level the main terrorist whose cell you're trying to infiltrate shoots you in the face and you die.
As far as the single-player mode goes, I can't speak from experience... and neither most other CoD players, I wager.
I think that scene is something that makes Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 a game for adults, the same way as ear cutting scene in reservoir dogs makes it something for adults.
As far as I know, other call of duty games do not have such scene. I may be wrong on that one through.
I understand "man-hours", but I've never heard words like "millennium" inserted like that.
Messing up units turns sensible claims into gobbledygook.