Some News from Apple

So Apple made their big reveal earlier this week regarding their new iOS and where they will  be focusing their energy.

I was particularly intrigued to hear about their new Swift Playgrounds, an iPad app to learn Apple’s programming language.

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If you want the lowdown, here are a couple of good articles that synthesize the relevant stuff:

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Via Make Magazine: Ada Lovelace and still the gender disparity in STEM

Just in case you were looking for an interesting article to glimpse at during invigilation…

Why we’re still talking about gender and STEM on Ada Lovelace’s 200th birthday via MAKE

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Watercolor portrait of Ada King, Countess of Lovelace by Alfred Edward Chalon

 

In Honour of Computer Science Education Week

Alas, Computer Science Education week always happens during our black-out week so we are not able to schedule an Hour of Code with our students. But the least I can do is give you something entertaining and thought-provoking  to help you procrastinate with your marking…

Here is a 15-minute podcast from Planet Money entitled When Women Stopped Coding, about why the numbers of women dropped so rapidly in the 80s (1984 to be exact).

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Why not try your hand at one of the Hour of Code workshops? I recommend the Khan academy introduction to javascript or the Code Academy  one!

I have also been reading this interactive article that gives a very in-depth but accessible guide to what is meant when we say “Code”. It is long, so I recommend reading it in chunks, but it is also very thorough!

 

How hip hop can teach you to code

Sometimes, it is just in the way something is explained for it to finally click. Although I have never written a hip hop song in my life, I have written a lot of poetry, preferring the kind with severe constraints such as sestinas or villanelles. When I translate the idea of the template of a poem into programming, it makes perfect sense! Now I want to make a programming template for poem formats…

I just gave away too much information about how my brain works didn’t I?

Oh well…

The artist may change, but the template remains the same

Sourced through Scoop.it from: boingboing.net

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Technovation Challenge: OrangeYouTech’s Food friend

newtechovationlogoThis year Traf participated in the International Technovation Challenge a competition to empower girls to get more involved in creating rather than simply using technology. The challenge was to create a prototype of an app that would benefit the community. The students then needed to create a business plan for their app,an elevator pitch, a pitch video, and a demo video as well as the source code for their app.

As you can imagine, it was a lot of work- we met several times a week, sometimes even on a Saturday. The girls coded their little hearts out at home and we all learned a lot – not only about how to program but about what it takes to put together a business plan. It was a great experience and I hope to do it again next year!

Here’s the team:

OrangeYouTech

Elevator Pitch:

Think a doughnut or a cupcake is a healthy snack? Do you hate counting calories? Tired of complicated food logs? Then Food Friend is for you! Record your daily meals, sit back, and let our app tell you what you’re missing for a balanced diet. Don’t let a number define you. Friends don’t judge, they encourage. Food Friend doesn’t believe in calorie counting, just in helping you along your way to your healthiest self. Food Friend offers healthy recipes, fun tips and supportive badges for your health achievements! Friend your food. It will friend you back.

Here is their pitch video:

Here is their demo video:

Though our intrepid team did not make the semi-finals, we did place 3rd in Saturday’s Montreal edition of the Technovation Challenge presentations. This means that they get to pitch their app at the Montreal Start Up fest in July! Here are our girls at Saturday’s pitch fest:

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Tickle: Learn to Program Drones, Smart Toys, Robotics, and Smart Homes

I saw this app right after getting out of a meeting about a potential Maker Space in our school. I have been thinking about getting a Sphero for the library- now I have the app that will help program it!  You can also program a parrot minidrone, Philips Hue (which apparently is personal wireless lighting- who knew?) or make your own video game.

Source: tickleapp.com

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When Women Stopped Coding

A friend of mine shared this article and I gotta say, I had one of those forehead-slapping Bart Simpson moments.

Here is the graph they are talking about:

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Now see if you can guess what happened in the mid-80s to plummet the upward trend of women in computer science… It is so simple and horrifying it will make you want to tear out your hair.

For decades, the share of women majoring in computer science was rising. Then, in the 1980s, something changed.

Source: www.npr.org

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Lightbot: Teaching Rudimentary Coding Concepts to Students | Edudemic

When we started rolling out our iPad program at our school a few years ago, there were no apps to show students how to code. A quick glance at the app store now features a whole section on coding. But which one to choose? Once again, the thorough reviews from Edudemic gives a nice guide on which one to choose.

A note on her review: Having done a quite a few of the online coding tutorials, I find that in many of the tutorials, when you come to an impasse, they give you a little hint but mostly you have to go elsewhere to find the answer. And when I say elsewhere, I of course mean the internet.  Many programming resources, guides, glossaries, can be found online.And when that fails, you ask someone! Programming is way more social and cooperative than people realize.

It looks like this might be a great place to begin!

One more note: this app costs $2.99.

Source: www.edudemic.com

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Hour of Code Highlight: Maximize the popularity of Frozen and Code with Anna and Elsa!

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Have some kids who are finished their work? Are they sitting there twiddling their thumbs? Ok, at this time of year, probably not. But still, now that we all have the songs from Frozen in our head due to our fabulous Holiday Concert last night, why not take a second, get into the Winter spirit and learn to Code with Anna and Elsa?

The tutorial is made for beginners, so anyone can do it. For example, this is how you begin:

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Ok. I did it. Ooh- I like how you can view the actual code behind the blocks:

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Ok. There are 20 pieces of the puzzle, so I won’t bore you with each step, but here are a couple of screenshots.Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 10.31.58 AM

Although this was at a lower level than I should have been doing, I still got momentarily stumped by the need for specific directions. It is like that game we used to play as children, when one person would pretend they were blind and the other had to direct them across the room? The computer is like a blind kid.

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And, as the byline on this blog says- if I can do it, so can you!

(I’m totally going to make my kids do this.)

In Honour of Computer Science Education Week: Stats Can’s Gender differences in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and computer science (STEM) programs at university

From the horse’s mouth. Gender differences in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and computer science (STEM) programs at university is part of the “Insights on Canadian Society” series published by Statistics Canada.It dates from almost exactly a year ago, so pretty recent.

[…]Despite the advances made in recent years,Note4 women remain less likely to choose a career in STEM areas, and more particularly in engineering, mathematics and computer science. This stands in contrast to nearly all other fields of study, where women now represent the vast majority of graduates—especially health and social science programs. Why are women staying away from STEM programs?

Here is the overview:

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Check out the study. The stat that gives me the most pause and I think is indicative of the root problem is the last point – where women who score high in STEM fields are still less likely to choose a STEM program than men who fared less well in the same classes.

Is it an issue of perception?Do young women equate engineering and computer science with anti-social, awkward loners and not with the opportunities to effect change in th world throughout these fields?   Is it because there are not enough role models in young women’s daily lives or in popular culture? Why?

I think it is a mix of many things, not to mention the centuries-old gender bias that has only recently (the last century is recent when talking about our society’s perception of gender) started to be deconstructed.

Either way you look at it, if women are to have a voice in our culture, they should have a hand in building it, whether it be a bridge, a pipeline or a virtual space online.

Celebrate Computer Science Education Week and do an Hour of Code!