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Programming as mind gym

When you stare at the computer screen a good part of the day, when Facebook makes you feel dumb, when you think there must be a way to get your mind going again, try programming. I can already hear the screams of “I can’t do that, I am too old” or “Why would I need to learn programming” but learning anything new does help improve mental capabilities and programming is way more fun than math games. Programming can be likened to telling a good story.

Since many people can at least make up a story, both Scratch and Alice are ways to make a story come to live. You end up moving things around the screen, making music play, just making sure that the story is fun by making and plugging together elements rather than typing code like you see such classic movies as Wargames. The beautiful part is that while you are making a story you are learning how to break down a “story” into parts that can be reused, setting up and following through a flow of what you want to have happen, and end up with something that you can show off, even if it is just to your kids or grand-kids. Both Scratch, from scratch.mit.edu, and Alice, at alice.org, have tutorials, videos, user provided examples, and showcases of what others have done.

As games involve story telling, making a game is another great way to learn programming. Of course, there are many languages to program in, each have advantages depending on what you are trying to accomplish, but for learning, it is better to work with what is fun. Ruby4kids lets you taste the fun of making a game pretty quickly, but you have to enjoy trying something in one window and seeing the results in another window. The teaching materials serve more as references.

I know I try to avoid long web addresses but there are quite a few learning oriented programming links on http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/best-free-ways-learn-programming.htm

Since programming is not what everyone wants, see what people are talking about via Twitter, searching for on Google and publishing on Wikipedia. These trending terms are fun to watch and important to an increasing number of businesses and governments.

google.com/trends/
twitter.com/trendingtopics/
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:RecentChanges which is more easily viewed at http://wikistats.co/

Why not try a bit of programming; it will be more of a workout than some of those simple brain gym games.