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Greg Linden with his Code Monster programming site.

Greg Linden is a veteran software engineer and startup entrepreneur in Seattle who developed’s recommendation engine, started the personalized news website and worked for Microsoft’s Live Labs, among other tech ventures and companies.

He’s also a parent who wants to make sure his kids learn a little about computer programming languages.

But when he initially looked around for something helpful online, all he could find “was either tutorials designed for adults that overwhelm younger learners with their boring syntax and complexity, or games that didn’t teach an actual, valuable programming language.”

So he came up with a solution: Code Monster from Crunchzilla. It’s a free site, designed for kids ages 9-14, that blends elements of a game and tutorial to teach basic Javascript skills.

The site uses live code in the browser, letting users program in one pane and see the results in another, as the Code Monster leads them from lesson to lesson. The site parses the code and explains errors, with features including offline usage and the ability to remember where the user leaves off.

Linden’s approach is also interesting in a broader context, as U.S. political and technology leaders try to figure out new ways to get more kids interested in computer science and technical fields.

He explains, “The lessons do start slow, introducing parameters, variables, drawing, and color, but then move into loops and functions, and eventually get into drawing pretty trees, ferns, and fractals, as well as a great tease on animation and physics. When kids used Code Monster, they see all the cool things they can do, and they get excited to go off and learn more about programming.”

Code Monster will be part of a suite of products from Linden’s Geeky Ventures Inc.

Linden says Code Monster will always be free, and what he learns from parents and kids who use the site will become part of future products. The next product is under development, and he hopes to have it released in the next few months.

Check out Code Monster here, and read more in this blog post by Linden.

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