College students learn to code with Blackbird

Blackbird, an integrated learning platform offering a customized version of JavaScript specially designed for use with middle and high school students, has just joined the Google Cloud Partner Advantage program.

As a result, Blackbird now integrates with Google products like Google Sign In, Google Classroom, Chromebooks and is listed in the Google Cloud Partner Directory, making it accessible to a much wider audience.

So what can educators expect from Blackbird?

Blackbird’s version of JavaScript aims to advance student skills from early block coding to programming with a real programming language, but with a twist. Instead of using pure JavaScript, it selects and modifies the parts usable in education. Essentially, Blackbird created a domain specific language, the domain being the specific needs of the college; that is, learning while having fun through games and the creation of animations.

The reason is that programming languages ​​are used by engineers, so they are not directly understood by other professions. For example, physicists know their field, their calculations and formulas, but do not know enough about programming to encapsulate these needs in code. And that’s why DSLs exist, to allow these people to express these requirements themselves in code.

Blackbird, aligned with Common Core, Next Generation Science, and CSTA learning standards, goes a step further than just changing the original language. The need is for students to understand problem solving and algorithmic thinking rather than just coding; after all, not everyone will become a programmer. As such, its language is dedicated to making this goal as clear as possible.

Along with language, Blackbird has also launched an integrated web environment where students and teachers can learn to code and practice.

After logging into the platform, students are ready to start exploring the lessons. The scheme is as follows:

Students are guided by prompts and for example during the very first lesson to which they are assigned:

create, position and draw points on the canvas

since drawing dots is a prerequisite for making games.

They are informed of what to enter, in this case:

var p = new Point ();

and they have to type it into the accompanying text editor’s playground (think Codepen.io) and run it in order to see the effect it has. If everything is OK, you check your code to go to the next level.

Helpful tooltips are provided on the concepts at hand, so when you click on them you get a detailed explanation. Additionally, there is a Deep Dive section that reviews what the code is trying to achieve. What’s also useful is that while your program is running, at the simplest level, you can observe the values ​​to which your variables are assigned. There is also a dedicated debugger with which you can take a step-by-step look at what your code is doing.

When the inevitable mistake does occur, as part of the learning process, the feedback you get is helpful and accurate, provided in plain language appropriate for the relevant age group.

There is also a workshop where you can code your ideas without the constraints of the program and you can also share your code with your family and friends.

Needless to say, the lessons are piling up and suddenly you are able to create games and animations of more complex projects, such as those made by some students:

Final, a space shooter

Attachment system

An animation of painting on canvas

As far as the teacher, parent, and instructor is concerned, Blackbird’s built-in LMS makes it easy for them to track student progress, review code, and provide direct feedback.

Blackbird starts with the first three steps (42 lessons) provided free of charge and upgrades with additional advanced lessons. available through an affordable price structure that includes full support and professional development. As such, I highly recommend starting with the free package and upgrading later if and when you want.

More information

Blackbird

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