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Kano: a Kit for Kids who Code

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There’s been a lot of talk recently about how to teach kids to code. It’s a great idea but the material is so dense that it’s left many wondering how we can make it accessible to children. Well, a company called Kano may have figured it out.

Kano started off as a Kickstarter project and was hugely successful. They wanted to make computing as simple and fun as playing with Legos, and judging by some of the comments on Twitter, they’ve succeeded.

A Kano kit comes with a Raspberry Pi computer board, a speaker, a wi-fi dongle, an HDMI cable, an SD card, and a keyboard with a built-in touchpad. You snap these pieces together and then connect it to a desktop monitor or television using the HDMI cable. If you believe your child is too young to be browsing the internet, you can simply disconnect the wi-fi dongle. Many of the programs should still work without access to the internet.

kano components

 

Kano comes with a number of games to encourage learning. You can build your own customized versions of Snake and Pong where you edit everything from the color scheme to the rules of the game. It also comes with a music program that lets you write and loop music. In addition, Kano has a simplified version of Minecraft that allows you to build custom worlds through code.

kano minecraft

As you can see in the above image, writing code is made more accessible by making it more visual. Looking at lines of code can be daunting because it appears to be a bunch of text that doesn’t look like anything if you don’t know how to read it. Kano uses color coding and interlocking pieces so the code makes more sense.

The only concern about Kano that parents need to know is that there does not appear to be any safety restrictions specific to internet access. That means your child can easily stumble upon content you’d normally be able to block with the content filters or software you normally would use. It would be nice to not have to monitor your child the whole time that they’re using Kano, so here’s what I recommend you do:

  1. When you can’t be there with them to monitor their experience, disconnect the wi-fi dongle. There’s a ton your child can still do: make music, build games, create worlds in Minecraft, the list goes on!
  2. When you are able to be there when they use the kit, reconnect them. There are a number of education apps that enhance the coding experience that they should access.

You can buy one of these kits for $150 on their website. It would make a unique holiday gift and there’s no question that being able to write code is a useful skill that many people want kids to start learning sooner rather than later. Consider Kano a tool for doing just that.

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