Playcanvas, a JS Teaching Platform for Kids

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PlayCanvas has been a great platform for teaching kids javascript at theCoderSchool. But before we get further into it, let's set the stage with a little background information. Javascript is is a high-level, dynamic, weakly typed, object-based, multi-paradigm, and interpreted programming language. Wow, how many technical terms were in that description. Simply said, JS is awesome! It's one of the core backbones of the World Wide Web. That's really all that's needed to be said right?

For obvious reasons the drag n drop languages such as Scratch and Snap are the best introductory languages as kids these days are starting into coding even before being able to type. However, as kids become ready for their first typed language, theCoderSchool is finding that a lot of them are choosing JavaScript. 

JS as a First Typed Language

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Kids really enjoy and do well learning JS as a first typed language. It's one of the easier and more engaging languages to help kids make the transition from drag n drop into typed coding. It allows their code coaches to keep them more engaged by introducing graphical programming more easily. With that said, the difficult part is to sustain their interest. Our code coaches at theCoderSchool have found that using the PlayCanvas platform has helped give their students a longer term engagement and focus. 

Why PlayCanvas Works

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PlayCanvas is an opensource 3D game engine. It's also a cloud-hosted platform which allows for easy accessibility from anywhere anytime simply from a browser. With everything that PlayCanvas offers, probably its most effective feature is its interactive 3D capabilities. The engine is capable of rigid-body physics simulation, handling three-dimensional audio and 3D animations. It allows kids to interact with 3D. Need we say more? It's super engaging and fun while at the same time provides exceptional learning. It also challenges kids to build games and see other games that were built as inspiration.

project Ideas

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One fun project idea that we've done is to allow your student to design and even 3D print out their own fidget spinner. We took a shortcut and uploaded an initial design into Blender, but in PlayCanvas you can do your own design or base it on a template as well. The basic design with the end caps is 3 separate design pieces (this is important if your going to 3D print it). Then allow your students to add a logo or their name to it which is always something kids love to do. Once you get the final design you like, it's great if you have access to a 3D printer to print it out. If you don't have a 3D printer, you can always outsource it at a reasonable cost. Don't forget that you will need to purchase the ball-bearings separately. How can you go wrong when introducing the most popular fidget spinner combined with 3D printing. It's a double win-win combo! 

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A second project idea falls within the lines of the more traditional gaming genre which is always a hit with kids. You can have your students build anything resembling one of their favorite video games and you will almost certainly have a happy camper. You don't have to build out the entire game. Most of the time, just replicating a few key features and functionality is enough. Here's an example. It's a 3D game where you control a spaceship and shoot asteroids.What's not to like?

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Last, but not least, is a third fun project that a student built which is quite creative. They created their own original game with an objective of navigating a watermelon down an unbalanced plank through spikes. Is that out of the blue or what? Check it out here.

Summary

In summary, one of the primary keys to kids learning will always be interest and engagement. There's lots of great platforms and new ones keep popping up everyday. We've highlighted PlayCanvas as one in particular that works well, but more importantly, use whatever best suits you and your student to keep the both of you excited. There's certainly no shortage of fun project ideas, and if you need some extra guidance don't hesitate to utilize one of our Code Coaches®.