How My Kids Are Learning to Program By Talking

Accepted Session
Short Form
Scheduled: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 from 2:30 – 3:15pm in B202/203


My children have patiently tolerated a number of teach-STEM-quick schemes their dad has brought home. They've taught robots to dance, created simple animations using Scratch, and, quite frankly, made a lot of poop jokes.

What's missing from these programming tools was storytelling. The ones we tried focused either on easy interactivity or expressive power. If only there were a way to combine the two... oh, wait, there was—46 years ago!


At some point in any project, my kids end up talking through what they want their program to do. We then struggle to translate those stories into the format expected by the tool: either graphical blocks wired together in a diagram, or keywords in a full-fledged text programming language.

This is ridiculous—why can’t the programming environment learn to understand their stories instead? In this talk, I’ll discuss some of the things we’ve tried to bridge this gap: speech recognition, text processing, and a friendly computer language that was designed exactly for this purpose in 1967.

Speaking experience

I've spoken at several conferences, including Open Source Bridge (most recently in