At last managed to lead my first “Code Club” session – it had a slightly chaotic start as none of the computers we were using had Scratch installed and nor did we have access to a login that allowed us to install Scratch in the Windows “Programs” directory – but once we worked around that we all had great fun.
From the start it was obvious that Scratch made sense to the kids – they immediately grasped that the endless loop control would set the actions it enclosed to run endlessly. Of course nobody (apart from Visual Basic users?) works with similar simple graphics tools when writing an industrial strength program, but that was not the point: this is about teaching loops, conditionals and branches and so on.
The lost time at the start meant it was all a bit hurried so I do not know how much of the programming the children took in – as opposed to just ensuring that their Scratch scripts matched those in the worksheet. But on the first time out – none of the children had used Scratch before – simply being able to manipulate the programming elements was probably more than enough.
In any case, all of them were hugely enthusiastic when I told them they could install Scratch on any computer they had at home and practise on it there.
Code Club feels like a huge success to me already.
- Code Club Week 1 First Thoughts (antsict.wordpress.com)
- Raspberry Pi in schools (raspberrypi.org)
- Week 6 in ScratchPiBot Club (cymplecy.wordpress.com)
- Coding for kids is as easy as Pi (wired.co.uk)
- A nostalgic look at what a 13 year old can do with a C64 (hackaday.com)
- Codecademy’s Zach Sims is leading a movement; now can he build a business? [GigaOM] (gigaom.com)
- Week 4 – ShrimpingIT Maker Club (cymplecy.wordpress.com)
When I think back to my time in the mid-1970s at Holy Child Primary School in Andersonstown in West Belfast I often conclude that the principal qualification for teaching most staff there had was either a hatred of children or a psychopathic desire to do them physical and mental harm. (I am not joking by the way).
Children were hit for any reason, or indeed no reason at all. Once a female teacher dragged me off the ground for a good ten metres by hair alone. My crime was to have, at a school sports day at Casement Park, to have got out of my seat to have congratulated a school mate. No circle of hell is hot enough for people who treat 9 year olds in this way.
(Of course, at the age of 11 the system then went on to throw 75% of its victims on the scrapheap via the 11+ exam. I passed that and went on grammar school, one of the lucky ones. But I remember the waste of talent and the brutality of the system well enough to regard those who think it was some sort of golden age of order and social mobility with a mixture of pity and contempt.)
One of the little scams of our teachers – all of them, not just mine – was to naff off to the staff room for a cup of tea and a cigarette at morning break time having set us some work. The idea that the point of the break was to let the kids out into the playground seemingly never occurred. School was not for our benefit, after all. Failure to do the work, or to have done it badly would quite often result in a beating.
So one day my P6 teacher decided that the task we would all have to do was to write-up on how to tie our shoelaces (as you can see the task was predicated on the need for the teacher to have to make the minimal amount of preparation – sometimes we were simply told to copy out passages of school books). In truth, I did not know how to do this and the task caused more than a little panic. Frantically, experimenting and desperate, I managed to get it done.
And, whatever the reason, the way I learned to tie my shoe laces is, it would appear, the correct way.
When I read this column in the Guardian last night I thought the opposite, and so this morning tied one shoe in the way I have always done (at least since that day in 1976) and one in what I thought, from having read the linked website, was the “correct” way. Needless to say, after about half an hour of walking the shoelace on the “correctly” tied shoe was coming loose and that on the “traditional” side was still firmly fixed.
I have always found the concept of impedance in an electrical circuit bearing an AC load something of a mystery.
At ‘A’ level it was just handed out ex cathedra but explained very poorly (and certainly not in any physical sense).
Even at University where in my first term (the first term of second year students as I made the mistake of going straight into year two of the four year course – a mistake my university career never really recovered from) I did a pretty intensive course on DC circuits, it was never explained (astrophysicists presumably not needing to know much more).
So I bought Electronics Demystified – not normally the sort of book my inner intellectual snob would even contemplate, but I needed to get up to speed and yet not spent a lot of time on the physics.
The book is indeed somewhat simplistic and very short on any sort of physics-based explanation, but lo-and-behold, in chapter two it explains simply that complex impedance is an electromagnetic effect. Maybe I missed it, but I just do not recall anyone ever pointing this basic point out before. I don’t claim I have a full understanding now, but I do know what is at the core.
I am also left, once again, wondering why we teach magnetism so poorly when plainly it is the equal partner of electricity, which we teach an awful lot about (or, to be fair, we did – this was some years ago!)
- Downloads Digital Electronics Demystified e-book (vcbniun.typepad.com)
- Physics of Circuits and Electricity for Little Kids (pragmaticmom.com)
- Teaching (about) Physics (telescoper.wordpress.com)
- Rewriting quantum chips with a beam of light (eurekalert.org)
- Do electrons erode circuits? (abc.net.au)