Programming in Blocks

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Hi! Today, we will begin a new series of blog posts on block programming.

Throughout the article, we will learn what programming is and how we can program with blocks. Moreover, we will understand the main movement blocks through the “Start Programming” activity in our educational platform, Smile and Learn. 

The Smile and Learn educational platform has more than 7,500 STEAM and literacy based educational activities for students between the ages of 3 and 12. In our platform, children can dynamically learn a plethora of content related to main educational subjects, whether in the classroom or at home. We also host content focused on social and emotional development along with family play activities! 

Our content is available in both English and Spanish! If you would like to try it, you can request a free demo without any obligations from Smile and Learn here.

 

WHAT IS PROGRAMMING?

There’s often a misconception that computers are complicated machines that are difficult to comprehend. In reality, the backbone of computers—programming—is quite simple to understand.

Programming is the language of technology and machines. Machines and computers function through the instructions that we provide them by using programming languages. 

While the world continues to develop new forms of technology, the role of programmers becomes even more important. Whether it’s the establishment of digital currencies or the construction of spacecrafts, programming is at the forefront of shaping our world. Such exciting endeavors are suited for bright minds, and children should receive the opportunity to explore programming through friendly and engaging resources that encourage enthusiasm about technology. To learn more, continue reading!

 

BLOCK PROGRAMMING

Programming, like any language, has different methods of communication. The most famous are coding languages that help you program with phrases and sentences.

However, coding is generally more difficult—especially because it’s done almost exclusively in English which may prove to be a barrier for young children. Hence, it’s most common for children to learn through much more visual and intuitive programming—block programming.

Each block contains a different command, condition, or event. For example, the block in the image below contains the command to take a step to the right.
If we press on the block, nothing will happen. We must send the block to the programming zone.

 

BASIC MOVEMENT BLOCKS

There are different types of movements in programming, but the basics are: forward, backwards, to the right, and to the left. We won’t always be able to use them all as it depends on the machine that we program. For example, if we create a robot that can only walk forwards and backwards, we cannot use sideways movement blocks.  In this activity, we have a block that orders to take a step to the front and, if we look at the image, we know that the girl must move forward to the square as indicated by the arrow. The girl is positioned so that she is looking at the square, meaning that she would not have to turn to reach it, only move forward. Through counting, we can see that she has to walk over 3 squares, including the target square. As each block commands to move forward one square, we have to place 3 “move forward” blocks onto the programming zone.

 

BASIC ROTATIONAL BLOCKS

In addition to the movement blocks, we also include turning blocks. Can you imagine why? For example, in our game, we control a girl who doesn’t know how to move sideways. When people want to move left or right, we turn our bodies and walk forward. If we don’t include rotational or turning blocks in the programming of people or machines that mimic the real world, their movement would not look natural.Normally, we use two different types of rotational blocks: right-hand turning and left-hand turning. Although you can indicate the degrees of rotation in more complex programming zones, in our activity, the rotation corresponds to a 90º turn. To understand it, observe what happens to the girl if we order her to turn:

 

Turning blocks also let us use less movement blocks. We can achieve the movement in the direction we want by turning and using only the forward movement block. That’s exactly what we have to do to solve the following situation: the girl wants to get to the sheep pen. According to the blocks that are placed, she will first move three squares forward, then turn to her right and move forward until she arrives at the door of the sheep pen.

 

 

WHAT ELSE CAN I LEARN?

If you have enjoyed the “Start Programming” activity, you can continue checking out our next series of blog posts on block programming. Specifically, we will show you an activity we have in Smile and Learn about conditional and looping blocks. You’re going to love it!
As a reminder, you can try our educational platform, Smile and Learn, by requesting a free 30 day trial without any obligations. You will then be able to explore all activities, games, and interactive stories we host. We look forward to meeting you!

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