Familiar Tools to Learn Unfamiliar Things

When you are about to learn something new, anything familiar can push you in the right direction. Background in skateboarding is useful when you start snowboarding, ability to understand Spanish helps with your new Italian studies, and so on.

Familiar tool—or medium—can also help: if you are used to pen & paper for taking notes, you shouldn’t switch to a computer or tablet when you are trying to understand a cognitively heavy lecture.

This week we saw two cool things taking this approach. Both are to familiarize children with coding, but in a medium clearly outside coding and computers. First, Hello Ruby by Linda Liukas (of which I’ve blogged before) hit the stores. Then, another ace product was published by my colleagues at Sanoma Pro, more specifically the Oppi&ilo team: Robogem.

Robogem

Robogem is a physical board game for the whole family where players steer their robots trying to collect diamonds. They use simple commands found in cards that together form more complex movements around the board. The players can even put aside card sequences and call them when they enounter specific function cards. I tried Robogem with my family and also watched children play it by themselves. Very entertaining!

Hello Ruby and Robogem are both nice examples of teaching abstract constructs in familiar and approachable ways. For uninitiated people, coding and computer programs can sound technical, difficult, even scary. However, they are not scary at all when you learn about them while reading a storybook or playing a board game with your friends.

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