Raspberry Pi and Python

Why Your Child Should Start Learning Drag-and-Drop Visual Programming Before Syntax Programming


Drag-and-drop visual Programming vs Syntax Programming

Code comes in a wide variety of programming languages. We can group these programming languages into two forms — syntax and drag-and-drop visual programming. Text-based programming , or commonly known as Syntax, languages include Python, Javascript and C++. Generally, people perceive syntax or text-based programming to be the ‘real’ form of coding. The long strings of commands and words in text-based programming appear more professional than its visual counterpart. However, it’s challenging for kids to understand and follow programming rules religiously, and they may get annoyed and disinterested when they see syntax errors appear.

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Drag-and-drop coding – A more visual entry point

Drag-and-drop visual programming is an excellent way to start your child’s programming journey, before your child eventually moves on to text-based programming. It is one that allows the coder to drag blocks or icons containing concise commands that are easy to understand. The blocks are usually colour-coded, allowing your child to group blocks with similar functions together. Visual-based programming languages include Scratch and Blockly.

Drag-and-drop visual programming is more straightforward compared to text-based programming, hence reducing the need for your child to understand syntax. This gives your child more brain space and time to strengthen their logical thinking and programming concepts. Logical and analytical thinking is an essential skill of a good programmer, and it is applicable no matter what programming language one decides to use in future.

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Promote logical and analytical thinking using drag-and-drop visual programming

Since children learn more easily through visualisation, we teach them how to code using blocks with visual images. For our infant and junior program, our curriculum emphasises on important programming concepts that students should master. This is so that our students would have a strong foundation in their logical and analytical thinking before they move on to learning a text-based programming language. 

As students transit from the junior program to The Lab program, we teach them how to code using Blockly, which makes use of blocks with commands rather than icons. Blockly’s interface shows native programming as well, allowing your child to progress from drag-and-drop coding to text-based coding more easily.

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Why a Raspberry Pi? Raspberry Pi VS Micro:Bit

Why a Raspberry Pi over Micro:bit

Micro Bit has been commonly known as an entry-level microcomputer. It aimed at very basic, entry-level use cases. Raspberry Pi, due to its economical price and versatile use, it is commonly used for tertiary education.

Raspberry Pi 3 vs BBC Micro Bit – Design

While the Raspberry Pi 3 resembles a rudimentary PC – a board with multiple recognisable connections – the BBC Micro Bit is essentially a 5 x 4cm circuit board with five basic I/O rings for hooking up other devices and even power.

This means that the project that a student can do is limited to five basic I/O rings while a Raspberri Pi has four USB ports, 40 GPIO pins, and an Ethernet port.

Raspberry Pi 3 vs BBC Micro Bit – Power

Raspberry Pi 3: 1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU and Broadcom Videocore IV GPU, 1GB RAM

BBC Micro Bit: 32-bit ARM Cortex M0 CPU, 16KB RAM

We don’t know about the BBC Micro Bit’s specs, but we do know that it runs on an ARM Cortex MO CPU chip, which is the smallest ARM processor available. It’s designed to be extremely small and energy efficient, as well as easy to program for.

Raspberry Pi 3 vs BBC Micro Bit – Connectivity

Raspberry Pi 3: 4 x USB 2.0, 1 x HDMI, Ethernet, 3.5mm audio jack, 40 GPIO pins, Camera interface, Display interface, MicroSD card slot, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth

BBC Micro Bit: 5 x I/O rings, Bluetooth Low Energy, Micro-USB controller, edge connector, compass, accelerometer

Once again, the Raspberry Pi 3, despite being very basic, actually has the recognizable connections of a modern computer.

It has an HDMI slot, four USB 2.0 slots, an ethernet port, and a 3.5mm audio jack. It also has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, something which its predecessor, the Raspberry Pi 2, missed out on. That makes it great for using as a media center.

The BBC Micro Bit has a basic set of five I/O rings, meaning you’ll need crocodile clips to physically hook it up to other devices (such as sensors or robots).

Raspberry Pi 3 vs BBC Micro Bit – Software

Raspberry Pi 3: Variety of Debian-based OSs, primarily Raspbian OS, free Windows 10 version

BBC Micro Bit: Embedded software platform, web-based interface

Raspberry Pi 3 is a full applications processor-based device that runs Linux and Windows 10, while the BBC Micro is an embedded software platform that doesn’t run a full operating system. The Pi even features a web-based UI for editing in JavaScript, Python, C++ and Blocks.

The BBC Micro Bit is suited to teach the raw building blocks of coding at the heart of it. It’s highly basic. If students were to purse into more advanced programming, a Raspberry Pi would be more suited. That is the reason why The Lab Singapore uses a Raspberry Pi so that students are able to learn a much more robust curriculum with one of the most powerful and economical microcomputer in the world today.

** The Raspberry Pi is a series of small single-board computers developed in the United Kingdom by the Raspberry Pi Foundation to promote teaching of basic computer science in schools and in developing countries.  

** The Micro Bit (also referred to as BBC Micro Bit, stylized as micro:bit) is an open source hardware ARM-based embedded system designed by the BBC for use in computer education in the UK.

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