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

See on Scoop.itipadyoupad

Code Club: First Meeting a Success!

Last Thursday we had our first meeting of the Coding Club (hopefully we can find a better name for it). A dozen students came to the library after school as well as three teachers who wanted to learn how to code. 

Maja Frydrychowicz, a computer science teacher at a local Cegep, generously donated her time to get us started. She began by showing us how a whole block of code looks like by running a program she developed that demonstrated how cells would react in a petrie dish. She ran the program once and then changed just one line of code and ran the program again. What we saw on the screen was completely different. This was a great way of showing the students how every little bit counts. She also emphasized that programming is one of the most social kinds of work (contrary to popular belief)- most programs are written by a group of people in constant communication. She also warned them that it can get frustrating and that there is a lot of trial and error in programming, so not to get discouraged if it doesn’t work right away.

Then she showed us Scratch and we paired up to work on a few of the challenges she set for us. She concluded with a take home challenge of making a labyrinth for our cartoon cat in Scratch. The hour went by very quickly, with many people staying on to work on their projects.

This week we are going to continue where we left off. There are also a few students who have their own projects they would like to work on – Maja will be around again this Thursday and is very willing to share her expertise!

Below is an article about some amazing youth innovators to get us more inspired!

See on Scoop.itipadyoupad

Here are 10 youth innovators, from ages seven to 15, particularly worth noting and working on projects ranging from games to anti-bullying apps.

See on mashable.com

My Paperless Classoom: Differentiation: Programming and Geometry in Second Grade

Although this article is about the experience of a second grade teacher, I think the idea of melding programming language with geometry instruction brilliant. It made me wonder if coding could be applied in anyway to the secondary curriculum?

Would love to hear your comments!

See on Scoop.itipadyoupad

See on www.mypaperlessclassroom.com

Mile End Hour of Code

Note: This was a personal initiative. This was not affiliated with the school, though I am in the middle of organizing a coding club for our students beginning in January).

For the past year, I have been increasingly convinced that every kid should learn to code.

Here are some of my talking points on this subject:

  1. Computers are ubiquitous in our life.
  2. Yet most of us have no idea how they work.
  3. It is going to be increasingly necessary to know how they work even if you are not in a computer science field.
  4. Yet learning how to program is not a required part of our curriculum (though our multimedia guru gives all the girls who take his class a very very solid background in coding,not all girls take his class, alas).
  5. Many of the most interesting, flexible and highly paid jobs are in computer science.
  6. Yet the number of women going into this field is lower than it was 20 years ago. Articles such as this one from the NY Times confirms this:

In 1990-91, about 29 percent of bachelor’s degrees awarded in computer and information sciences went to women; 20 years later, it has plunged to 18 percent. Today, just a quarter of all Americans in computer-related occupations are women.  -Catherine Rampell, NY Times article

Now this seems like a laudable goal, right? Except for the fact that I know absolutely nothing about coding. This I am trying to rectify- I have been going through the Code Academy Tutorials (I am in the middle of learning about javascript) and I have been fiddling with building a website. However, my pace is akin to that of plate tectonics. If I wait until I know enough to teach someone else, I will be an octogenarian.

However, I am pretty good at organizing. And, more importantly, I have friends who know how to code. And even more importantly, they are just as keen to get other girls excited about coding as I am.

In conjunction with Tricia Campbell and Maja Frydrychowicz  (both teach computer science at Dawson College) we organized a workshop for teens this last Sunday to coincide with the Computer Science Week Initiative, Hour of Code:

Mary Martha from the Nouveau Palais let us use her lovely restaurant and Eric from the Atwater Library’s Digital Literacy Project supplied the computers.

We began with an offline activity entitled, My Robotic Friends. Here is a good video that describes the activity:

Our 4 participants (hey, we have to start somewhere!) broke up into two teams and wrote their code, while Majabot stayed behind the counter. Both groups worked on the same configuration of cups. What was interesting is that though they ended up with the same result, their code was a little bit different. It was a great introduction to the concepts of algorithms, functions, etc. They were also introduced to the concept of de-bugging when the robot did not do what they expected.

Then we moved on to the computers and Khan Academy’s introduction to javascript:

We skipped the videos, and went straight to the Crazy Face activity. Tricia and Maja gave the girls a few guidelines and instructions and were on hand to help them through any difficulties they were having. but really, it only took a little bit of guidance for them to take off on their own.

Our hackergirls at work!

Our hackergirls at work!

A few of the questions asked were:

1. Say you want to make your own code (not part of a tutorial) where do you put the code?

2.How does the code get on to the web?

3. Can I do more?

Although we only had a few participants (it is a terrible time of the year for kids- exams are coming up and holiday duties abound) the feedback was very positive. They all said they would be interested on having a more regular event in the new year. I think the best kind of model for this would be to have a space where the kids can either work on their own projects and have access to mentors when they get stuck as well as a more structured activity for those who don’t quite know yet how they can utilize their new found skills.

Hopefully, this story will have a sequel!

(This article was also printed with a few modifications on my other blog, inparentthesis)

Hacker Scouts! Why We Need to Teach our Students to Code

Via Edudemic

I am so excited about this for several reasons. One, I read this article about how academics in fields other than computer science who had spent some time learning code were more likely to get hired than those who didn’t (I can’t find the blog post at this moment but am working on it).

And then this:

Coding.

Programming.

I have no idea about it. But my kids will need to know about it. And thinking about how they will need these skills whether they become an English Literature professor or an engineer made me rethink how I was understanding the concept of creation online.

I have always viewed the idea of creation, one third of the holy trinity of technology in education (the other two are connection and collaboration and yes I am making this up as I go along) as meaning creating content on already built platforms. Blogging on blogger or wordpress, uploading videos to youtube and all the other myriad tools and templates available online (don’t get me wrong- I am a BIG fan of the WYSIWIG).

But I think it might go deeper than that. We scratch the surface of what it means to create with technology if we don’t understand the infrastructure of what we are using.

So yeah. I am excited about Hacker scouts.

hacker-scouts

Read Edudemic Article

 

To conclude, a little anecdote. I have a friend who had the benefit of participating in a pilot program in about Grade five. They were taught how to use Scratch, the program the TEd Talk dude above is talking about. She went on to get a degree in linguistics and then working in dot coms in San Francisco on the strength of her completely unofficial diddling around with code. I met her in library school and now she does knowledge management consulting work for the UN. She attributes her ability to learn and understand different coding programs to her initial introduction to coding at such a young age.

What do you think? Perhaps a Montreal Chapter of the Hacker Scouts?

More on the subject:

Should Kids Learn How to Code in Grade School?

Why all kids should be taught to code

36 Resources to help you teach kids programming