Warning: This post differs somewhat from our typical Global Developer blog posts. Rather than discussing a specific issue or technical topic related to developing global software, I want to introduce you to an exciting tool that I work on called Small Basic. Small Basic is a simple and fun development environment that we use to teach programming concepts to students around the world.  I say ‘around the world’ because we now have Small Basic localized into English as well as 18 world languages.  If you are interested in learning more about using Small Basic to get students interested in coding, please read on.  If this is not relevant to you at this time, thanks for reading this far!  Please check back again for additional posts on global development topics.

 Introducing Small Basic: While I’m sure that most followers of this blog are advanced developers who are comfortable using Visual Studio, you may understand why a simpler development environment would be useful for middle school students with no experience in programming.  Small Basic fits this need very nicely.  I use it to teach programming concepts to a weekly class of 10-15 year olds, and I find that I only need to spend a few minutes talking about the tool before getting started with simple programming tasks such as drawing pictures with the Small Basic Turtle object.  This ability to get started very quickly on simple programs is key to holding students’ attention long enough to see some results.  The image below shows the Small Basic development environment, in Arabic.  No menus, just a few buttons for New, Open, Save, Save As, Cut, Copy, Paste, etc.  The two buttons in the middle allow you to easily Publish your program to SmallBasic.com or to Import other peoples’ programs from the website. Once you publish your program to SmallBasic.com, it can also be viewed in your web browser using Silverlight.  (Click here to view a sample Small Basic program running in Silverlight.)  The last button on the right is used to Graduate (migrate) your program from Small Basic to Visual Studio. 

Small Basic Development Environment (Arabic version shown)

Disclaimer: Small Basic is a free and unsupported tool intended for use with students and others who are new to programming.  Small Basic should not be used for developing commercial applications.  Please see http://msdn.microsoft.com/ for more information on Visual Studio and other professional development tools.

Small Basic Localization Efforts:  As noted above, Small Basic is currently available in 19 languages.  This wide range of languages is possible because Small Basic fans around the world, both inside and outside of Microsoft, volunteered to localize the tool into their local languages to better meet the needs of their students.  These localization efforts are very important to the success of Small Basic because students are often less comfortable using English tools than professional developers.  The current Small Basic language list is provided below.

Arabic

Hebrew

Brazilian Portuguese

Iberian Portuguese

Chinese Simplified

Italian

Chinese Traditional

Japanese

Croatian

Korean

Czech

Polish

Dutch

Russian

French

Spanish

German

Turkish

Current list of Small Basic localized languages

Getting Started: If you are interested in taking Small Basic for a test drive, you can download the 5.7 MB package here.  You can find more information including Getting Started Guides and an extensive teaching curriculum on the MSDN Beginner Developer Learning Center.  We already have localized Getting Started Guides available for download, and we are currently working on localizing the teaching curriculum, which consists of 23 PowerPoint files.  We hope to be able to share the localized curriculum soon.

Summary: Small Basic is a great tool for generating interest in computer science among young people.  As we see computer science enrollments declining in some regions, now is a good time to reach out to young people to introduce them to computer programming.  Even if they do not pursue careers in computer science, these skills will still be useful in a wide variety of jobs in the future.  I hope you will consider sharing your programming skills and passion for coding with a student you know. Thanks for reading this post and for following our Global Developer blog.

More Info:

Small Basic Website: http://www.smallbasic.com

Small Basic on MSDN: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/ff384126.aspx