People of 2015

Here are a few of the inspirational people I met this year, in no particular order.

1. Dr. Tim Bell

I saw Tim at the Teaching Kids to Code conference at Future Schools back in March. He did a workshop about his website CS Unplugged. I knew of the website and the excellent resources before the workshop and I really love the resources so I was very excited to see him in action. The workshop was great and the activities we did were lots of fun. The way Tim described the activities and how they link to computer science was amazing and really gave me the inspiration to experiment with more of the activities in (and out) of the classroom.

2. Dr Jordan Nguyen

I also saw Jordan at a conference this year. The way he spoke about his life and how he is helping people through science and engineering was both moving and inspirational. “It’s time to think bout the world and how you will improve it”. His project to develop ‘smart’ wheelchairs is inspired and could really make a difference to people who need them. “I have a vision to help many more people make their own positive mark on the world”. Great article about Jordan from SMH here.

3. Professor Ian Chubb, Australia’s Chief Scientist

I saw professor Chubb at the AIS STEM Conference and his speech was eye-opening and inspiring! He really put STEM into perspective, the importance, need, global issues, local issues, our future, industry, education, he covered absolutely everything and did not hold back. He is clearly very passionate about STEM and firmly believes it holds the keys to our future survival on Earth. His strategic approach and more about STEM can be found here“Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics: Australia’s Future outlines what we need to do to build a stronger, more competitive Australia,” Professor Chubb said at Parliament House.

4. Abi Woldhuis

I saw Abi and the Teaching Kids to Code conference in March and I was impressed with what she said about managing coding clubs. I was already running a Scratch club when I saw Abi, but I learnt so much from her about how to grow the club and make it more of a meaningful experience. I learnt how the kids in the club need a strong identity, that they are not just their to code but they are explorers and pioneers on an amazing adventure. As a result of her talk I revamped my club including putting up more posters and giving the girls a fun, themed poster, so they appeared as an astronaut for example. Another thing I implemented was the Scratch licence. I series of activities to learn the basics of coding in Scratch and when a student completes them all they earn themselves a licence. My girls loved it!

scratch_driver_licence

5. Ewan McIntosh

Ewan’s keynote at the Adolescent Success conference in August on the Gold Coast was another eye-opening and inspirational experience for me. Ewan is the founder and CEO of NoTosh, an innovative lab for design thinking, strategy and learning. His presentation was cutting edge and the whole audience was transfixed on him and what he was saying. He used images and video brilliantly in his presentation, it was so creative and made me think of how I could do something similar in future presentations I would do. I particularly enjoyed the real-world applications of what he was saying. An example was school students using 3D printing technology to help design and make prosthetics. Another case was students creating children’s books for ill children in a hospital. There were many other examples and they really showed he we, teachers and students, can make a difference using technology to people in our communities.

My Top 5 Coding Web Apps

Here are my top 5 coding web apps, in no particular order.

1. Blockly Games

This is a free resource that is suitable for young coders with no prior experience. It is a Google project which uses the Blockly language of drag, drop and connect commands to create programs.

Blockly Games is a series of seven educational games designed to be self-paced and self-teaching. By the end of these games students are prepared to use conventional text-based languages.

 

Maze

I have used this resource with  year 3 students and they loved the Maze puzzle in particular. Most were able to complete some of the puzzles, the last puzzle in particular is quite hard and required some scaffolding.

Discussing and breaking down the puzzles provides a great way to learn about coding, problem-solving and thinking computationally.

2. MIT App Inventor

Another free coding resource, MIT App Inventor also uses the Blockly language to create Android mobile apps. The interface is easy-to-use and the resource has lots of tutorials to help learn how to create fun apps.

As well as the coding you also have a set of interface design tools to design good looking Android apps. Standard items such as text boxes, check boxes, buttons and radio buttons are present, but more advanced controls are available to control media, sensors, storage and social activities.

There are plenty of books and online courses to help you learn how to create apps, I even did an edX course where I built 5 apps, including a game, social hub and picture slideshow.

Hub

When your app is finished you can publish it to the Play Store and download it to your device.

3. Code.org

Code.org is not just about the Hour of Code, although this is a great initiative and the website has tons of great HoC coding tutorials and activities. This year’s HoC event introduced two new and very popular coding tutorials with Minecraft and Star Wars. They are great and well worth your students doing them.

Code.org also has curriculum’s for primary, middle and high school students. I am familiar with the primary course which offers (at no cost) self-guided, self-paced tutorials with ‘unplugged’ activities. The Computer Science Fundamentals course is suitable for students aged 4 to 10 and there are four different levels to work through. By the end of each course students can create interactive stories and games which they can then share with others. Lesson plans and links to curriculum standards are also provided. This is a great course, even just to dip into from time-to-time to cover certain topics.

Codeorg

The website has tons of other great resources, such as a video library with clips explaining key concepts including the internet, pixels, compression, and computer science.

Engaging women in coding. The website has some tips of how to increase female engagement, such as by making it social, showing inspirational video clips, fighting stereotypes and showing how computer science is relevant for so many fields.

Code.org also promote community involvement and professional development activities.

This really is a fantastic resource to be involved with!

4. Made with Code

This Google project has some fun and creative ways to learn coding. Some of these include coding clothes, music, selfies, a yeti, avatar and a garden watering robot.

The latest tutorial is in collaboration with the Disney Pixar film Inside Out.

InsideOut

The tutorials utilise an easy-to-use interface with a drag and drop coding language, similar to Blockly. Instructions are clear and the challenge builds the further you get through each tutorial.

As well as coding tutorials the website has a Mentor section where you can view video clips of people working in the tech industry and be inspired by their stories. These are great to how students as the mentors are young people and not your typical stereotypical idea of a computer programmer.

The website also has a link to a community page where you can view coding events happening, offer to host your own coding party and access to social media.

Finally, the resources page has links to some other great coding resources.

5. Scratch

Scratch is a free resource and is suitable for students in years 3+. For younger students I recommend the Scratch Jr. app. With Scratch you create projects with code. The code is a drag and drop language similar to Blockly. You can make all types of projects with Scratch such as games, animations, quizzes, greeting cards, slideshows and much more. Scratch has a huge community and you can view other projects that Scratchers have shared from all over the world. It is even encourage to ‘remix’ a project you find. This means to take someone else’s project and change the design or code to make the game your own. You can also follow other users and like and comment on their projects. If using this resource with students I recommend discussing the social aspect before using it and laying down some ground rules for proper use. I set up my own Scratch class accounts to use in school and encourage positive and constructive feedback at all times.

ScatchHome

I run a Scratch club at my school and girls in year 3 especially love coming in and making something fun and creative. The website has lots of tutorials and sample projects to get you coding quickly and easily. I also recommend Code Club Scratch resources, they have many sample projects to work through with detailed and user-friendly instructions.

These are all fantastic resource to get young people into coding, problem-solving, thinking logically and critically, being creative, social and having fun!