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Friday, March 20, 2015

My life as a tech teacher, part 3: The coding lesson that runs itself

Freelance technology journalist Alex Cruickshank continues from here, " I think I know now why some of my old school teachers seemed to be permanently drunk. It's because they were."

Photo: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The pub across the road was just too tempting to ignore. A liquid lunch would ease the pain of having to face intelligent, enquiring and occasionally unruly minds in the afternoon. You don't understand exposure until you stand in front of a room full of children, some of whom might well know more about the topic than you do. I'm sure booze helped dull the anxiety all those years ago.

But teaching has come a long way since the Seventies and Eighties, and such behaviour is now frowned upon. Not that I was tempted. There may be gaps in my IT knowledge but I'm no novice, and I have enough psychological awareness to turn awkward questions into class discussions. So caffeine was my drug of choice before the second lesson.

I had high hopes for this one. After the previous week's introduction we mostly talked, it was time for action. I was going to let the kids loose on programming tools. With a laptop connected to an overhead projector, I loaded Scratch in the browser and instructed the children to do the same.

First problem. Because of Steve Jobs' stance on Flash players for iOS (30% technical, 70% petulant) the school's iPads were no use to Scratch. Possibly they could have been upgraded, but with 20 or more laptops to use instead, it wasn't an issue. It did mean some kids had to share, but I wanted that to happen anyway: collaboration can help learning, if organised properly.

Scratch opens with a sprite of a cat in a blank square box. I started by showing the children how to get the cat to move. I dragged a 'move XX steps' box into the programming area, changed the number of steps to 30, and clicked on it. The cat moved. I explained the concept, then added a 'turn XX degrees' box, changing the number to 90. The cat walked and turned right.

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Source: IDG Connect


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