Our generation is one punctuated by the ubiquity of digital media in our lives. The extent to which our lives are mediated by technology should require us to understand how exactly a lot of it works. Which means not only understanding the underlying code that was used to design this technology, but also understanding how to think in relation to it. Which is why the seemingly innocent iPad app Cargo-Bot could potentially be an important education tool for children.
Cargo-Bot is an iPad game for children that on the surface is about solving puzzles to stack crates. The key is the method in which the puzzles are intended to be solved, however. While the interface doesn’t ask users to write in a programming ‘language’ per se, it requires the crane machine that stacks the boxes to be programmed to carry out certain tasks. What is important about this method is that it places the focus on programmatic thinking instead of coding itself.
Coding is only on its surface about writing in a different language. To code means to learn how to critically solve problems using abstract thinking. By excising the actual ‘coding’ or at the least simplifying it to a series of boxes, it puts the emphasis on programming as abstract thinking.
If we learn to think this way at an early age we would have a better understanding of the media that affects such major parts of our lives and would even be able to take more control over it.
The slick, colorful game should appeal to children immediately, making puzzle solving fun instead of a chore. It is the first game for the iPad to be designed entirely on the iPad itself with Codea. It is available for free from the App Store and is developed by Two Lives Left.