Pencil Coding

I’m working through my to-do list from the CSTA Conference.  One intriguing programming environment is Pencilcode.

You know that things are a little different when you go to create an account.

Unlike other services that want you to give up your first born for access, real names are not allowed.  Interesting.  I started my discovery by poking around the support page on Google Groups.  It gave me a sense of what sorts of things people were asking about. 

Then, it was time to dig in. 

Like most languages involving turtles, it’s always a good sense of the language to draw something.  For me this time, it was a capital P.

In green, of course.

If you’re familiar with any block programming language, you’re off to the races with Pencilcode.  Just drag your action out to the work area to build your program.  Clicking the “Play” or “RePlay” icon will clear the workspace and you can see the results.  I particularly liked the mathematics friendliness by having a grid on the workspace.  It certainly helped with the turns and distances.  But, confession time here, I still did the body motion and head turn to get my bearings. One of the really nice features of Pencilcode is the ability to reveal an individual step on the output screen via mouseover.

One of the concerns that I often hear from those who are not fans of block programming is that students become too familiar with blocks and moving to text can be a challenge.  Pencilcode tempers that a bit with the ability to click the icon dividing the code from the block collection and moving to a text mode.

Did I hear Logo enthusiasts just give a big gasp?

Pencilcode is a nice addition to the entry world of coding.  But, don’t write it off as a simplistic approach.  By working your way back the file directory structure, you can see the efforts of other Pencilcode programmers.  There are some pretty interesting pieces of code to play around with and remix for your own purposes.

The fact that it’s all available via the web means no software installation and you’re up and running right away.

2 thoughts on “Pencil Coding

  1. Just what I need for my boys in coding club who really like Scratch, but somehow think that it’s not really “code”. Nice compromise, with the ability to do (and see) both kinds. Will be playing around with this one.

    Like

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