Teaching Kids to Code – Graduating from SmallBasic

Regular blog readers may know of my work with Microsoft’s free kid’s coding IDE, SmallBasic as a tool to introduce the fun of coding to DigiGirlz.  As I work with my volunteer developer teams on improving the way we work SmallBasic (more on that later in this post), I am thrilled to see a major enhancement in SmallBasic itself.

Kudos to the incredible Vijaye Raji (a developer on our Visual Studio team).  He’s not only created SmallBasic alone and on his own time, but he continues to improve it.  He’s recently released version 0.7, which includes the new ‘Graduate’ Feature.  This allows SmallBasic applications to be seamlessly migrated to VB.NET.

To see this in action, download SmallBasic (it’s FREE) and install it.  Open the IDE and write a simple program (sample screen below).


After writing your program, simply click on the new ‘Graduate’ button on the toolbar and the magic happens.  Just fill in the destination on the pop-up dialog, and you’re done!

Graduate SmallBasic dialog

Just for fun, I’ve installed the Visual Basic Express 2010 beta 2 on my machine and am using it to open the newly created VB project.  All of the Express editions of Visual Studio are also free – you could also use Visual Basic Express 2008.   Because I did use 2010, there is a ‘update project’ wizard that pops up – just click through those dialogs and enjoy the results (shown below).

VB 2010 Express Beta 2

Of course, this being Visual Studio Express, you can enjoy all the features included in the Express Editions of Visual Studio, such as the Object Browser (shown below), debugging, etc… I am so excited about these capabilities as we are  teaching kids over the long term!

VS Express 2010 Object Browser

In addition to the new ‘Graduate’ feature, my team of community technical volunteers and I are continuing to work with Vijaye to prioritize requests for improvements to the SmallBasic IDE, based our our work teaching with it. 

Along with these improvements in tools, I have been working with community developer and technical instructor Llewellyn Falco on improvements in teaching methods and he’s come up with a great idea to ‘give legs’ to SmallBasic after the live classes we teach.  His concept is to use ‘recipes’ for further exploration.  We are quite interested in your feedback on this approach.  Here’s a link to the wiki where we are posting recipes (partial screenshot shown below as well).

SmallBasic 'recipe'

What do you think?  Let us know.  We are particularly interested in hearing feedback from middle and high-school technology classroom teachers on our new approach, so if you are reading this blog and know a teacher – please pass along the link – thanks!

Comments (2)

  1. Rob Boek says:

    I’m looking forward to showing this to my girls. Thanks!

  2. Garth Flint says:

    I have been teaching with SB in my high school Programming I class for a couple of years now.  As a teaching tool it is great; simple IDE, excellent forum and it is easy to dream up projects for the kids.  The bad part is the lack of printable documentation to give the kids.  I have not used the graduation feature as yet.  I usually do different projects using the forms when I switch from SB to VB.  My biggest issue with what is being done by Microsoft and others trying to build educational material is the lack of material on how to design programs.  The steps required before the kids sit in front of the computer are by far more critical that typing code and also the most difficult to find material for and to teach.  Program design, algorithm development, flowcharting, pseudo code, etc seem to be an ignored segment of all these projects.  I can find lots of stuff on how to code but nothing on how to program.  With the addition of design material and printable documentation a curriculum of SB and VB would make a great high school teaching combination.

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