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Part II: Coding is Creative

When you search for the word “Coding” on Google Images, the pictures you get look like scenes straight out of Sci-Fi movies like The Matrix: dark coloured computer screens with a bunch of confusing looking white and green symbols all over the place! These images can seem quite intimidating and have a striking resemblance to a blackboard covered in maths formulas. This is partly due to traditional stereotypes about coding, which claim that coding is all about “tech”, “maths” and “algorithms”.

As we learnt in Part 1 of this series, coding lets us create programmes, which are a set of instructions that tell a machine to do certain tasks in a specified order. So, it makes sense that code involves some logic like we see in maths and algorithms. It’s important to realize, however, that coding is far more than just maths, and we can use it to do some very exciting and highly creative tasks too. This leads us to the second transferrable skill kids can learn through Kidovation’s coding modules:

Transferrable skill #2: Expressing creativity through coding

All those different numbers and symbols can be used by kids to express their artistic creativity in a whole bunch of interesting ways.

They can use coding to create art. At Kidovation, we teach kids how to use free online editors, using simple JavaScript code so that they can draw anything from an alien or a bus to their own abstract art. With some quick tweaks of the code, they can even animate their JavaScript drawing, so the fish they drew can swim across the tank on their screen, or they can launch their own rocket across the night sky on their desk.

They can use coding to create live music. We teach kids to use Sonic Pi, which is an open source music jamming software created by Dr Sam Aaron. It’s intended for coding education and is simple and straightforward to use. For example, you can play a note (“play :C5”), let it pause (“sleep 1”), play a chord (“play chord(:G4, :major)”), then apply all kinds of synthesised sound effect on those notes. You can also mix it up with drum beats, create a live loop where you can combine and moderate different sound elements in real time, and wrap everything with trailblazing studio effects. You can compose, mix sounds, and even lead professional concerts at the Royal Albert Hall using Sonic Pi.

“Coding with Kidovation” is not about getting every kid to pursue a career in coding. It is about expanding their horizons and empowering them to understand and use different coding languages and tools to express their own creativity. Just as Maria taught the kids in the Sound of Music: “when you know the notes to sing, you can sing most anything”, when you know the tools for coding, you can create most anything!

Reflection activity:

It’s Winter time and we were lucky enough to get some proper snow in the UK this year. Snow has kept the Kidovation team feeling festive beyond the Christmas season, so we thought we’d try coding a Christmas song we all know well – Jingle Bells! We all know how the tune goes, but in case you forgot:

“Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way!

Oh, what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh, hey!”

Now let’s try singing it using note names:

“Mi-Mi-Mi--, Mi-Mi-Mi--, Mi-Sol-Do-.Re.Mi----

Fa-Fa-Fa-.Fa. Fa-Mi-Mi-Mi.Mi. Mi-Re-Re-Mi-Re--Sol--”

Changing the Jingle Bells lyrics into note names is actually a lot like using all those crazy symbols we spoke about earlier to show the same song in a different way. But what if we can take this one step further, and create some code for the song?

Stretch activity:

Now let’s read notes in their fancy professional names:

Do -> C5

Re -> D5

Mi -> E5

Fa -> F5

Sol -> G5

La -> A5

Ti -> B5

Do ->C6

If you search for Sonic Pi online, download and install it, you can translate your notes into code easily! For example, the first line “Mi-Mi-Mi--, Mi-Mi-Mi--, Mi-Sol-Do-.Re.Mi----" will be

2.times do

play :E5

sleep 0.5

play :E5

sleep 0.5

play :E5

sleep 1


play :E5

sleep 0.5

play :G5

sleep 0.5

play :C5

sleep 0.75

play :D5

sleep 0.25

play :E5

sleep 2

If you want to code out a longer Jingle Bells tune, see some example code here (we mixed up some drum beats in it too!)

You see, coding is a tool that we can all use to create some fun and exciting things. We’re only on Part 2 and we’re already starting to see that coding isn’t so scary and can be used for many different things. Tune in next week to keep learning, fellow programmers!

- Dr. Christine Yu & Lexi Hayden

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