This weekend I learned how to programs apps for Android in order to do a computer science badge with the Girl Scouts. I had volunteered last fall to do an activity with them as a way to encourage girls towards computer careers.
If finally makes sense to me why we teach Scratch. When I saw the blocks editor, I recognized the format immediately – and so did the 4th graders. They caught on pretty quickly, even if my explanations weren’t quite as practiced as would have been helpful.
The girls had AMAZING ideas for apps. One where you bounce on a trampoline and try to break a glass ceiling. (As I was standing there teaching programming to girls, there was some meta awareness about them designing a game to break a glass ceiling.) One where you are animals and have to fight poachers. Another one where you get to go to a virtual school and experience what a day is like – wouldn’t that be an amazing tool for kids new a school from a very different background if they could walk through a day, kind of like an orientation? Sounds like this game from GLS.
I love that I have a job where I get to learn new things with kids.
***Picture of the toy I designed and printed for Alexander***
I looked forward to it all week. I couldn’t wait. I was giddy with thoughts of minecraft, arduino, 3D printing, little bits, squishy circuits, and MaKey MaKey. What if kids felt this way when they arrived at school?
We arranged to use a classroom near the entrance to the school and left windows and doors open for passersby to look in. We had flocks of middle schoolers who had to be shooed out to class. But truly, this day was for us.
Perhaps one of my favorite things about my colleagues in the tech department is the organic way we lead and follow. Never-ending learning means that we alternate smoothly between teaching, watching, trying, listening, sharing, and thinking. There were numerous shout outs: “Look at what I just did!” or “I can’t figure out how” or “Ooooooh, good idea!”
We started with 3D printing. We have a MakerGear M2. Our art/tech expert walked us through the hardware, the printing interface, and the software. We used tinkercad.com because it’s online, free, and easy to export an .stl file. We all set to work designing something, and I got the idea to make a die with six different icons not he faces. I jumped right in, but thank goodness other people use tutorials because they helped me use the workplane to orient the icons properly. Sometimes going slowly and following directions is useful!
I finished my design, downloaded the file, transferred it by USB, and loaded it into the queue. After 1 kernel panic, we had the printer off and going. See this time-lapse video I made in iMovie shortly after:
After lunch, we moved onto minecraftedu. All our middle schoolers now have it installed on their laptops (see my letters to students and parents). They deftly launched their own servers and were playing collaboratively (or PvP, roughly the same), so I did the same! I launched it on my computer, shared the IP address, and voila! We were all in the world together. This is my favorite part of gaming – having my friends there. I built a house, which I temporarily couldn’t find, having gone back to the spawn point without leaving a trail back to the house – oops! Mostly we explored and laughed and flew around, amazed at the possibilities for creativity. Oh, and we found out that you can design objects in tinkercad and export them into minecraft. Mind. Blown.
I never got to MaKey MaKey or squishy circuits, but I’ll find time to explore them in the next few weeks. I’m volunteer teaching some programming with our lower school Girl Scout troop in February, and I think we’re going to design video games in scratch that interface with a controller that is not the keyboard. Another opportunity to play!
It’s only work if you’d rather be somewhere else, and on this day I was so engaged I barely took the time to eat lunch. If only all learning could be this kind of self-directed, creative, collaborative, open-ended, play. Oh wait, it can be.
It is a summer of making and connecting with SIGIS and the National Writing Project. I haven’t actually begun reading Invent to Learn yet, but I did find myself with a bit of time so I started working on my version of Frogger.
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