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4 Online Resources to Kickstart Coding

When you decide your child is ready to learn about the functions and variables, what resources will help you help her? Several online resources can help you — or your kid — learn how to program.

This weekend, I heard the six words every mother longs to hear from her teenage daughter: I want to learn computer programming. Well, maybe every mom doesn't look forward to hearing those words like I have, and for that matter, I didn't actually hear those words. Instead, my daughter conveyed her coding curiosity to me via a message on my Facebook account.

My daughter doesn't remember ever running Windows on a home computer. She's had Linux on her laptops. First, she ran Xubuntu on her iBook when she was eight years old. Then she was my unwilling beta tester for Ubuntu "Jaunty Jackalope" on her Acer Aspire One and happily ran Ubuntu until recently. Now she's running Linux Mint on her new (used) laptop. But she's never had any interest in the technology, probably because I'm her mother, which makes everything I do — including all things Linux and open source — uncool.

Last night, after my teen and I were done talking (via text, naturally), I saw those six beautiful words pop up on my Facebook timeline. "I want to learn computer programming," she wrote. After updating my daughter's baby book — "First asks to learn programming: February 18, 2012" — I offered suggestions to my offspring... via Facebook:

Alice: At first, I pasted a link to the Alice 3D programming environment.

Invent with Python: Then I sent my daughter a link to Invent with Python, a free online book that teaches programming by making computer games.

Scratch: Next, I suggested she learn the Scratch programming language, which has a huge online community and example projects shared by other students.

Codecademy: Finally, I suggested she check out the Codecademy site, which I started playing with today. 

received US$ 2.5 million in startup funds last year and was picked as one of six startups to watch in 2012 on Mashable. The Codecademy site offers a fun, online way to learn how to code in JavaScript without having to install anything on your own computer. Ruby and Python lessons should be offered soon, too. As you work through the lessons, Codecademy tracks your progress, how many exercises you complete, and your achievements.

Codecademy, a new online service that teaches computer programming,

If you already know how to program, you might still want to check out Codecademy to recommend to friends, family, colleagues, or even offspring.

What other online resources do you recommend for someone interested in programming? Let us know in the comments.

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