I secretly like homework. Well, if it allows me to show off that’s just fine.
And then came last week’s computer assignment for my pre teen to ‘build a racing car track’, which somehow he morphed into ‘program our own racing car game’.
“Dad, you work with IT and cloud stuff, don’t you? If you start the programming I can join in after a bit of Call of Duty”, he blithely suggested.
My mouth ran dry, my back went rigid. How can I tell him? How can I dash his vision of me as a tech head superman? I may not have been a perfect Dad but at least I could, you know, ‘compute’.
“Well son, it’s like this …” cough “… you know when I said I work in IT?
Well, it was, erm, a simplification.
Which is adult talk for … it’s a fib”.
He stares at me with that expression of ‘he does idiot pretty well’. I snap.
“OK, I admit it” I shout out.
“I don’t actually know how to … code!”
I turn away, dramatically looking out of the apartment window. Liverpool Cathedral has rarely looked as Gothic.
The little lad puts down his PS controller and walks carefully to me.
“Yes Dad, I know. You’re not a proper developer like Uncle Bert.
I know you are a Sales-force de-vel-op-er. Someone else has done the difficult work of building out amazing tools to make you look good to your customers, by allowing you to tackle their business needs ‘ without code, without pain, and without delay’.
I have seen your website.”
That’s my boy.
“But Dad, it’s the same for us. They don’t actually expect 12 year olds to code.”
“No, but we have some pretty smart tools too. Come and look at this.”
He takes me to the Mac and shows me Scratch.
Created by MIT Media Lab, Scratch is a visual program language, for kids. Yes, for kids! And all we had was Blue Peter.
Available both as as download and as a web app, Scratch was made popular in the UK through Code Clubs. Complete with functions like Motion (to move images, or sprites as the kids know to call them!), Control (with if-else statements, repeat, stop), Sensing (to interact with the game surroundings) and even Operators, Scratch is a great introduction to programming.
For those that know the Salesforce platform think of Scratch as Visual Workflow and Process Builder for our little ones. In technical language, it is a pointy-clicky-wizardy thing, for kids. A truly brilliant achievement.
“Have you finished yet?” I am asked,
several times .
After three hours I have a rather rudimentary racing car game and he is several levels higher in COD.
“That looks pretty good. Where did you get those racing car sounds from?”
Well, I think I navigated that with my dignity intact.
What was your pre-teen coding horror story?