Final Coding Adventure

Well, I did it.

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I finished my calculator! I am so proud. It actually works and actually calculates what I asked it to.

This is a link to all of my videos I posted along my journey, or you can check out the list through my blog. (I’ve learned all kinds of ways to collect my information into one accessible place!)

If you don’t get a chance to watch all the videos (it’s ok, honest.), essentially what I’m trying to say is:

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In the playlist is a quick overview of some of the social media I used when learning to code:

I just barely scratch (ha! Scratch Jr!) the surface of the amount of information that exists about coding on social media platforms. I didn’t even look at Reddit or explore any forums on the video.

But, speaking of Reddit, this is what I found when I searched “python”:

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The top Python community has existed on Reddit for nine years! That’s ancient in terms of the internet!

Coding is everywhere. It’s hard to escape and seems to find me if I try and hide. As I mention in the above video, even the Google Doodle is trying to get me to code more often.

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I cover a lot of my struggles in my Summary of Learning. It was really challenging because coding is so overwhelming. In the Social Media and Coding (brief) Overview, I called up over 4 BILLION results from looking up simply “how to code”. There are SO many resources out there about how to code and what the best language is for coding and what the best product is and how many jobs there are.

I’ve developed a whole new appreciation for the effort that goes into coding an app such as Instagram. Making a simple, barely there code calculator like I did was a monumental effort on my part. To code something which boasts 800 million users is frankly a wee bit mind-boggling.

In addition to all of the websites I used, I also played around with some iPhone and iPad apps. I reviewed Scratch Jr which is an iPad app. It was really cool!

I also looked at Hopscotch and made a game:

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The more “practical” apps of Code School and Solo Learn showed me more about the behind-the-scenes of the how to code, beyond the dropping methods in Hopscotch and Scratch Jr. Code School and Solo Learn were more difficult to learn and use because it was all modular based and not as flashy or pretty but were more utilitarian and got the job done.

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It was quite obvious the age groups the apps were geared for, simply by looking at the user interface or even the opening screens or the language used.

Coding to me is like one of my favourite analogies: ducks on ponds:

Sure they look really cute and calm from the top. Dive below the surface and you’ll see their little feet just paddling like crazy to stay afloat.

This is how I feel about coding: it seems all pretty and calm on top, but underneath there’s a mess of code and programmers just trying to stay on top of their syntax errors.

Wait.

That sounds an awful lot like teaching, too. Hm. Maybe I have more in common with a programmer than I originally thought…

Till next time, keep on paddling!

 

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Coding Adventure #3

I’m feeling like I’m FINALLY getting the hang of very beginning coding. Things are starting to become more intuitive the more I practice.

Still really frustrating when I go through inputting a bunch of information only to get a syntax error, but it’s becoming easier to find out where that is.

I’m also discovering lots of similarities between stylistic English and stylistic coding. Never thought that would happen….

Also, Screencast-O-Matic is better than Screencastify. Just putting that out there.

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Warning: This is an image/video heavy post. I wouldn’t recommend viewing it on data. Wait until you have a stable internet connection.

Because my final project is about coding, I decided to take some time to look at different coding apps. Also, because the coding I’ve been focused on it higher level, I wanted to try out some junior coding apps, which led me to ScratchJr and Hopscotch.

 

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I played around with ScratchJr more than Hopscotch, so I’ll review that one. (But this isn’t the last you’ll hear of Hopscotch…)

ScratchJr started out as a Kickstarter campaign in 2014, where it raised over $77K (which is incredible for a crowdsourced campaign).

Now, it’s available on mainstream sites like PBS as foundation educational tool. PBS offers different lesson plans for ScratchJr using their channel’s characters, like The Kratt Brothers.

ScratchJr is available on the App Store for iPads (recommended iOS 9+) and on Andriod tablets (Kit Kat or higher). It is only available for tablets, not for phones.

When you launch, you’ll notice the colourful interface immediately:

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It is obvious this is geared toward a younger crowd through it’s primary subject matter (locations of animals, dealing with friends etc).

I went through the intro video in the app and got started “coding”:

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What I noticed right away was the similarity to the Codeapillar, which started me on the whole coding journey.

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Both use direction arrows to get their character moving (caterpillar or cat). I think this could be a good feature for a preschooler moving into more advanced coding because it allows for familiarity with controls and commands.

Also, entering arrows instead of >>>print(“hello world”) commands was a huge shift. It struck me how diverse coding is.

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My end result was a nonsense story about a cat, a chicken, and a grandpa having a fun day outside, playing. I wanted to try as many characters in a variety of strings of commands as I could while trying to maintain some coherence. It worked, for the most part.

Strengths:

  • ease of use
  • can be as difficult or as easy of a product as the user wants (to a point, obviously)
  • layout is easy to use
  • cheap (can’t get any cheaper than free!)

Weaknesses:

  • export — couldn’t figure out how to export my final product to another source (maybe it’s me? Is there a way to upload the video to Youtube from the app? Or email it as an mp4?)
  • once you’ve figured it out, the novelty wouldn’t last very long and kids may want to move onto something more complex quickly

Potential for the Classroom:

  • I can’t see why a teacher wouldn’t want to use this as a jumping off point for teaching primary students about coding. It’s free, easy to use with very little prior knowledge needed (the prior knowledge I do have about coding — i.e., Python, was not a help in figuring this out)
  • Using this is perfect timing as Hour of Code is December 4-10, 2017

 

Coding Adventure Part 1.5

As Alec mentioned, I am woefully behind in updating on my coding adventure.

I’ve been exploring some apps for coding, like Learn to Code with Python (which is shown in the gif below), Code School, Py – Learn to Code, and with Wing 101, which I’ve been using to “actually” code on the computer, not just on my phone.

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Coding on my phone seems much more limited than on a computer, though it’s been much more accessible (I was waiting in my doctor’s office last week and was trying out these different apps while I waited — I mean, what else am I going to do??)

Along with the coding, I’ve been learning other skills. Like the gif above. I made that from screenshots on my phone using Google Photos. I’m also playing around with different screencasting programs. I initially used Screencast-o-matic and for the next videos I tried Screencastify. I can’t say for sure which I like better, but Screencastify will upload to my drive but Screencast-o-matic is just a tiny bit more user friendly.

But I digress.

Coding is a lot harder than I thought. I am having a harder time than I thought keeping up with documenting. Documenting doesn’t always happen due to time/place, but I have been trying different aspects of coding. I guess it’s time for me to settle down and finalize what I’m doing (spoiler alert: it’s a fancy calculator. I try and start it in my video)

Wish me luck as I attempt to finish my calculator!

Share and Share Alike

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Sharing seems to be a common thread through my Master’s degree. The concept of sharing has dogged my every class in some fashion, whether it is sharing content or sharing ideas. It seems “sharing” is something a lot of teachers struggle with.

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I think the biggest personal barrier to my sharing with others is the concept of not being good enough to share. As I indicated in a previous post, teachers, in my experience, have an inferiority complex when it comes to their own work. Teachers are constantly comparing themselves to each other and how much better another teacher is doing something compared to what they’re doing now.

As a teacher, I’m always on the lookout for the next cool thing, but I can also see how some teachers like what they do because they’ve done it for  so long that to do something else would be very uncomfortable. So they don’t seek out new ideas or lessons. It seems that teaching is a profession of extremes: you either share or you don’t. There doesn’t seem to be very much middle ground that way.

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As Dean Shareski says, I think teachers have an obligation to share ideas and content because teaching can be such a collaborative profession, if you let it. If there’s no sense of collegiality fostered, it is too easy to shut your door and do your own thing for the next 40 years. It’s contingent on teachers to share with each other and to reach out to others, without waiting to be approached first.

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I think in order to create a culture where sharing is encouraged, there has to be a value placed on it, from above. If sharing amongst teachers is considered a priority, if creating things collaborative becomes paramount, there will be a corresponding increase in sharing with teachers. But, right now, teachers are strapped for time and are limited on resources, mentally, physically, and time-wise. Teachers are stretched thin. Sharing becomes a back burner issue when just getting through the day and planning a lesson at a time is life. (I find this especially true with new preps — I have all new preps this semester and have never felt so like a first-year teacher again!)

If teaching were to have an oath, like the Hippocratic one, I think the first commandment would be: First, share and share reserving judgment.