What is Processing & Why Do We Teach it to Kids?

Written by Cristina Calabrese, Director of Operations & Founding Member at The Digital Arts Experience – Friday, Jan. 24th, 2014

When I first heard about Processing 6 months ago, I had no idea what it was. Did it have to do with writing Microsoft Word Documents? Was it about typing? Is it related to my computer’s quad-core processor? Nope.

One of our programming instructors, Byron, describes it nicely in his course syllabus:

“Processing is an open source, free to download language. It was developed to initiate non-programmers into computer programming through the instant gratification of visual feedback. It is a simple language branching from Java. Thus the learning curve for future language learning is dampened by playing in this colorful environment.”

Still not sure exactly what it is? That’s okay! After reading a little bit about it, I too was not entirely sure what Processing is used for and why it exists. When Computer Science Education Week hosted “The Hour of Code”, I stumbled upon Khan Academy’s Introduction to Javascript and proceeded to take their series of lessons to start me on my journey. So wait a minute, is it Processing? is it Java? is it Javascript? What’s this all about? HELP!

Introduction to Processing.js / Javascript
Khan Academy’s Hour of Code: Introduction to Javascript

Processing is based off of Java; which is why it’s kid friendly. The syntax and code is broken down a lot more and is easier to read and write.

Processing exports into Javascript, which can be embedded into websites. Did that spark your interest?

Processing provides instant feedback. As soon as you input your code, you will immediately see what you’ve created. Colorful shapes, animations, visual effects and more.

For example, to create a rectangle, you’d simple type:

rect(200, 100, 40, 75);

rect = Draw Rectangle. The 4 numbers are the x-coordinate (200), the y-coordinate (100), the width of the rectangle (40) , and the height of the rectangle (75). On Khan Academy, your rectangle will end up looking like this:

Computer Programming for kids

    Using Khan Academy’s Computer Programming lessons, learn how to draw shapes and create art using math!
  • You can create video games.
  • You can program your computer to do your homework.
  • You can create colorful shapes and art.
  • You can create 2D animation and visual effects.

…all while using math, algebra and basics of code logic.

Khan Academy was an EXCELLENT resource for me in my first real adventure into the world of coding. It is completely free to join and their mission is simple:

“We’re a not-for-profit with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere. All of the site’s resources are available to anyone. It doesn’t matter if you are a student, teacher, home-schooler, principal, adult returning to the classroom after 20 years, or a friendly alien just trying to get a leg up in earthly biology. Khan Academy’s materials and resources are available to you completely free of charge.”

It took me about 4 weeks to complete all of their lessons and training, but I’ve learned so much along the way. And I’ve also created some really neat programs! Want to see my latest work? Check out this simple painting app that I programmed a few nights ago. Complete with “The DAE’s” staple logo colors blue, pink, green! Additionally, I urge you to sign up for KhanAcademy for free, too and check out all of their amazing programs, tutorials, lessons and more!

Basic Painting App! Made by Cristina.

Now that you have a better understanding of the power of processing, it should be a no brainer as to why we’d want to teach this to kids! It gets them involved in the world of coding without the intimidation of some of the harder languages such as C++ or Java. It teaches them the logic and understanding behind code while allowing them to explore creative outlets. (All while using math! Wow!)

Here at The DAE, we’ll be running a number of Processing classes for kids and teens ages 8 – 17 in Westchester, Fairfield and Rockland Counties. See our upcoming course schedule below:

AFTER SCHOOL – REGISTRATION FORM

Thursdays, 4:00-5:30PM (Ages 8-12) 02/13 – 04/10

Thursdays, 6:00-8:00PM (Ages 13-17): 02/13 – 04/10

WEEKENDREGISTRATION FORM

Saturdays, 10:00AM – 12:00PM (Ages 8-12) 03/01 – 04/26

Saturdays, 12:00PM – 2:00PM (Ages 13-17) 03/01 – 04/26

SCHOOL BREAKREGISTRATION FORM

February 17th – 21st – Ages 10-16

9:30AM – 12:00PM: Computer Programming with Processing

12:00PM – 1:00PM: Lunch & Activity Break

1:00PM – 3:30PM: Computer Programming with Processing

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