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Options: Grades 6 to 8

The below descriptions integrate text from software vendors' descriptions of the various products and the website authors' commentary.


Python is a general-purpose, high-level programming language. Its design philosophy emphasizes programmer productivity and code readability. Python's core syntax and semantics are minimalist, while the standard library is large and comprehensive. Python supports multiple programming paradigms (primarily functional, object oriented and imperative), and features a fully dynamic type system and automatic memory management.

We propose first learning Python in conjunction with RUR-PLE, which is an environment designed to help you learn computer programming using the language Python. Within an artificial world in which a robot can be programmed to perform various tasks, students will learn what it means to write a computer program, using Python's syntax. Students will also be able to apply their programming skills in a more traditional environment using the built-in interpreter.

Used in: Middle School to High School

Availability: Programming languages are free and run on all major operating systems.


HTML is the predominant markup language for web pages. HTML enables programmers to describe the structure of text-based information in a document by denoting certain text as links, headings, tables, etc. and supplementing that text with interactive forms, embedded images, animations, music, and video. HTML is written in the form of tags. HTML is fairly ease to use and exposure to HTML is advantageous for anyone who wants to create their own page (which is everyone nowadays).

Used in: Middle School

Availability: Programming languages are free and run on all major operating systems.

Game Maker

Game Maker was written by Mark Overmars, a professor of the University of Utrecht, partly as a teaching aid for his students. It is gaining recognition as a useful teaching tool in primary and secondary schools because of its easy entry and sophisticated scripting language. Game Maker will teach students object oriented programming techniques with a simple drag and drop interface that removes the need to learn a complex programming language. The rewarding experience of creating your own finished product - especially a game - will appeal widely to kids. This type of software also allows collaboration and teamwork either in pairs or in teams of up to four students. A game competition can easily be set up.

Used in: Lower School & Middle School

Availability: The software is shareware. The basic edition is free. To license the full edition for three computers costs $20 USD. Only available for Windows machines.

The Incredible Machine

The general objective of the Incredible Machine series of games is to create a series of Rube Goldberg devices. Available objects range from simple ropes and pulleys to electrical generators, bowling balls and even cats and mice. Some levels have only one solution, whereas others have multiple soultions and allow for user creativity. The software comes with hundreds of levels and a sandbox mode that allows students to create their own puzzles for others to solve. All of the levels use the concepts of gravity, forces and cause and effect. The game is quite challenging, and the puzzles gradually increase in difficulty. The game encourages students to think out of the box. Like the Toon version of the game, this application improves puzzle-solving and critical thinking skills. There is a unique feeling of success after every level, which is necessary for immersion and continued interest in an application. The game includes tutorials and helpful messages that can be turned on and off to help a student. In addition, the game lends itself well to teamwork, i.e., students can work cooperativly to complete the levels.

Used in: Lower School & Middle School

Availability: The software is freeware. Only available for Windows and Macintosh machines.


Armadillo Run is a physics-based puzzle game that is very similar to the Incredible Machine series. Students have to build structures with the purpose of getting an armadillo to a certain point in space. There is a selection of building materials, each with different properties, which can be combined to form almost anything. The realistic physics simulation gives students the freedom to solve each level in many different ways, something now always available in the Incredible Machine series.

Used in: Lower School & Middle School

Availability: The software is commercial - $20 USD. Only available for Windows machines.

Early Acquisition of Computer Science · ©2008 Justin Solomon and Peter Rusev