This is a special preview release of the Nova App Engine. The full release is expected by the end of this year. (see novatcl.com)
Nova is a new tool for teaching kids to code that uses a simple and easy to learn programming language that kids can get started with very quickly and extremely inexpensively, but which is useful and powerful enough to be a valuable tool that the sudents will continue to use for the rest of their lives. In just a few minutes, students can begin making their own mobile apps that will run on Android devices.
Coding for Kids
It has become a commonly-accepted belief that, in order to prepare children to compete in an increasingly tech-oriented world, learning to code is essential.
It’s difficult to read the news today without seeing yet another news story about efforts to try to get kids started in learning to program computers.
Because programming is typically so difficult, kid-coding tools usually involve “toy” languages, like MIT’s Scratch, that teach some programming concepts, using an extremely simplified or game-ified but aren’t useful for much else.
When kids learn to code using Nova, they learn tools and skills that will be useful to them for the rest of their lives.
The Nova App Platform is made up of the Nova App Engine, a set of apps to help with learning to code, and an interactive, self-paced curriculum of lessons available on the novatcl.com web site.
The Nova App Engine is a runtime environment for the Tool Command Language, usually referred to as Tcl, or “Tickle,” for short. It evolved from an app called Androwish, developed by Christian Werner, which is a version of Tcl that runs on Android devices. Nova built upon the terrific foundation that Christian built in Androwish, and enhanced that system with additional language capabilities, Web integration functions, cryptographic capabilities, and tools to help with learning to easily build and share apps using Nova Tcl.
The Tcl language is a particularly good option for teaching kids to code.
It is extremely easy to learn. Students will be able to start making simple apps after the first lesson.
It provides immediate gratification. Because it is an interpreted language, students can immediately see the results of the lines of code they write. They don’t have to do the complicated compiling, linking and packaging that other languages require in order to test their code.
Despite its being so easy to learn, it is a rich enough language that students can get build and improve their skills over their entire lifetimes. And it is powerful enough to become an invaluable tool throughut their school years and into their careers.
Tcl was awarded the extremely prestigious Association of Computing Machinery award in 1997. It was the language used for the control software of the Mars Rover. It is used in supercomputer centers worldwide. It is even powerful enough to base entire tech startup companies upon.
When they download the Nova app, students get everything they need to begin their journey into the exciting world of computer programming and app development.
Everything necessary to learn the basics of Tcl app programming will be included in the final Nova package, when it is released. Students will be ablle to code, test, and share their apps, all directly from their android device. Since no equipment beyond an inexpensive android tablet and keyboard are needed, it is extremely inexpensive to fully equip a classroom of students for a coding course.
How inexpensive? Only about $100 is required to purchase the recommended android tablet/keyboard combo that is ideal for creating and editing program code. About $75 is all that is needed to purchase a wifi-only android phone to use for testing apps. That means less than $200 to be fully equipped to complete all of the lessons in the Nova curriculum. This is far more affordable than the $500 to $1000 needed for the equipment required by other coding platforms.