Why I didn’t back RobotTurtles?


Dan Shapiro‘s Robot Turtles Kickstarter campaign has been hugely successful!  Dan has awesome creds, is widely known in Seattle startup community, and the game is way cool: teaching pre-schoolers programming even before they start reading? Wow! Why wouldn’t it be successful? You can find some raving reviews here: GeekMom, GeekDad etc.

What I like about RobotTurtles?

1) It’s not an app, but a board game involving face to face interaction and parent involvement.

2) Nice bundling of simple programming ‘instructions’ (like Lego programming language) and family fun board game

3) No one can lose and one can undo the move. That is so cool!

However, I didn’t back it. Why?

Part of me (the programmer me) wants to teach my kids programming. But the dad in me doesn’t want to. As much as I love the game and I admire Dan, here are my reasons explaining why I didn’t back it.

1) I believe pre-school age is not the right age to start teaching kids programming. I do believe in teaching them/ exposing them to multiple languages early on, but no programming languages. Most important reason is programming language is to communicate with a computer, while languages are with humans. Given how less social we’ve all become, they can wait a little!

2) I believe there are more important skills that our pre-schoolers need to learn: such as social, curiosity, questioning, sharing, exploring, etc than programming. With a stronger platform with these skills, older kids can pick up programming easily. I started programming at 19, that didn’t make me a lesser programmer. Why hurry?

3) Do the kids need to learn programming? I think it is optional, but not a must. Coding/ programming/ computing technology is no doubt high paying; these skills enable one become economically sufficient. However, forcing our kids to learn coding/ programming so that they have better chance of being stronger economically is just not correct. We need more emphasis on STEM in our schools, but coding is not entire STEM.

I haven’t played with it to know completely, but based on the promo videos and descriptions, I understand the game involves kids ‘choosing’ instructions which the ‘robot’ ‘executes’. But programming is not just a set of instructions. I agree the practice of logical reasoning helps later in life, but IMHO, saying this games teaches programming is a bit stretch. It is as good as saying teaching kids to walk & turn is like teaching them to drive a car.

Finally, I personally think it is little over-priced.  At least one Amazon reviewer thinks so too:


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