Tag Archives: programming

Alexandra Jordan – a Super Fun Kid Who Codes

screenshot from:  http://go.superfunkidtime.com
screenshot from: http://go.superfunkidtime.com

Alexandra Jordan.  9 years old.  4th grade.  Likes playdates.  Developed an app in her free time.

If you are a regular reader, you know that I am a big fan of teaching programming to kids.  Alexandra is learning programming with the help of her dad, saw the need for an app that aids in scheduling playdates for kids, and “Super Fun Kid Time” was born.

You can learn more about Alexandra in this article at Tech Crunch.  She recently appeared at the Disrupt Hackathon, and sat down with Colleen Taylor for an interview about her achievement, which also appears in the article.  When asked what she liked about programming, Alexandra responded, “I think it’s really calming and a great way to develop thought.”

You can see in the comments on the Tech Crunch article that there are some doubters out there who question Alexandra’s actual contribution to the app development.

Does it really matter?  She is in 4th grade and simultaneously attempting to solve a problem and pursue an interest by learning something new and useful on her own time.

A curious, engaged, problem-solving, 9-year-old who finds it soothing to write code and enjoys developing her thinking skills.

I don’t have a problem with that.

Want to teach your students to code?  Here are a bunch of resources for you.

Your Child – the Future Headliner of “Hypothesizing with the Stars”

Lego's new mini fig star!
Lego’s new minifig star!

Many attempts to encourage girls to pursue scientific careers through toys seem to follow a line of thinking that suggests that merely producing playthings in pastel purples and pinks will make them more appealing to the female gender.  I have addressed the questionable nature of this hypothesis in a couple of other posts. (See Goldiblox, for example.)  There is still a huge gap between the number of men and women in science, but steps have been taken in the right direction, lately.

For example, Lego just unveiled its new scientist mini-fig and, I am thrilled to see that she is not dressed in a frilly pink apron.  (Although, you might be interested to read here about the other figures bundled in this collection!) 

In another Lego related story, Mary Beth Hertz relates her experiences with girls and robotics using the Lego Mindstorms Robotics Kits.  Mary noticed, as I have, that there is a disproportionate number of boys at robotics events.  I was amazed, myself, to see how few girls applied for our 4th & 5th grade Robotics Club last year.  Although I do not want to exclude the boys, I would like to see more girls turn in applications. (We do a random drawing for members from the papers that are submitted.)  I’m not planning to make the applications pink, but I think a photo of some of the girls who were members last year should definitely be prominently displayed on the brochure!

In the meantime, check out this cool Kickstarter Project for a board game called, Robot Turtles designed to teach programming to 3-8 year olds.  Yes, I said BOARD game – and, even better, the intent is for it to be played along with the parents.  You can read more about it here. (For more programming for kids ideas, you can check out this post.)

And, to top it all off, Bill Nye the Science Guy is going to be on Dancing with the Stars.  How perfect is that?

A new generation of scientists/programmers/engineers is waiting in the wings.  Let’s do what we can to make these aspiring scientists the “stars” with whom everyone wants to dance 😉

Click here for the Kickstarter page for Robot Turtles!
Click here for the Kickstarter page for Robot Turtles!

Trends in Education for the 2013-2014 School Year

Augmented Reality in Education Flipboard Magazine
Augmented Reality in Education Flipboard Magazine

I know it’s an odd hobby, but I spend a lot of time reading blogs, tweets, Flipboard magazines, etc… about education.  During the summer months, I’ve noticed some common themes in articles, and I thought I would share them with you here, along with a few resources for each.  These are all topics I think you will be hearing a lot more about during the next 12 months.

  • Genius Hour – You might see it called 20% Time or Passion Time, or something else, but the concept is basically to give time to your students to pursue topics that interest them.  You can read about my own plans for this in the upcoming year here.  I also have an entire page dedicated to Genius Hour Resources.  Also, check out the Genius Hour Wiki and Joy Kirr’s Live Binder with many other resources.
  • Online Learning – MOOCS (Massive Online Open Courses) are being discussed all over the web.   While I disapprove of educating the masses in this way, I did see a powerful example of the benefits of online learning this summer when our district piloted a program for the elementary gifted students in which they could sign up for one online course to take (for free) over the summer.  The students got to take classes in subjects that interested them with teachers who were passionate about the topics.  They met students from all over the district through the courses, and pursued their own interests.  I think it’s important to maintain the personal aspect in online courses and to never forget that it is the connection that is created between teachers and students that has the potential to make the most impact.  Human to human interaction is essential.  Using tools like Edmodo and Moodle can make this possible.
  • Gamification – I posted about this earlier this summer after watching Jane McGonigal’s keynote at ISTE 2013.  I plan to use the ideas of challenges, quests, and leveling up in my class this year.  One example of this would be the Genius Hour Challenge Cards that I created.  I also like to use Class Dojo to help me with this.  Edmodo offers badges that are great to award to kids, and allows you to add your own.  Class Badges is another site that you might want to utilize.  Here is a great article on gamification for newbies, “Education Levels Up!”
  • Online Portfolios – The most prevalent example of this at the moment seems to be blogs.  Students as well as teachers are blogging and “publishing” class work examples.  Some other ways that this can be done are through Educlipper and Edcanvas (both have partnerships with Edmodo, too).  I saw great examples of Edcanvas being used by a teacher during her online photography course this summer.  Another option, though not nearly as robust as those two, is the Artkive app.

So, those are, in my estimation, the hot topics in Education right now – the ones you can harness to “Engage Their Minds.” Some other up and coming trends: innovative classroom design, maker studios (including 3d printers), and giving teachers million dollar bonuses for every five years they teach.

Okay, maybe not the last one.  Just checking to see if you made it to the end of this article 😉

Game Day!

Screen shot from GamePress
Screen shot from GamePress app for iPad

Depending on your perspective, today’s post title may elicit different pictures.  For those of you interested in sports, I am sorry to say that this has very little to do with football – at least not directly.  However, the beauty of these resources is that you can make the theme of your game whatever you like!

It’s Fun Friday, and what is more fun than games? The problem with store-bought games is that they often don’t live up to your expectations, or don’t appeal to everyone interested in playing them.  So, why not make your own?

A little while ago, I mentioned GameKit, a site that focuses on giving you “game development challenges.”

Yesterday, I discovered a (currently) free app called GamePress, which allows you to design your own games on the iPad.  You can customize them in many different ways.  It reminds me a bit of Gamestar Mechanic.

And, if you like the traditional board games, but have an idea for your own, here is a contest for Young Game Inventors to design their own board game!  The contest is open to children from ages 5-12, and ends on October 1st.  To get more information, click on this link.

Also, if you like the idea of making your own game, be sure to visit my Pinterest board that has tons of resources for Programming for Kids.  Or, if you prefer to just play challenging games, you might be interested in my board of Games and Toys for Gifted Kids.


from:  http://botlogic.us/#sthash.yhW6MqdL.nFiBtpwg.dpbs
from: http://botlogic.us

BotLogic is a new web-based game that teaches programming to kids.  It reminds me a bit of the iPad apps , “Daisy the Dinosaur,” “Kodable,” and “Cargo-Bot.”   The main difference is, of course, that you can play BotLogic on any device with an internet browser, and are not restricted to a certain operating system.  What also makes it more available to students is that you do not have to register to play BotLogic, and you can skip to different levels of difficulty – so you do not always have to begin on the first level if you switch your playing device.

Programming for Kids is a trending topic in Education, and BotLogic is one of many resources for teaching this.  (You can view my Pinterest board to see even more.)  Some of the features that set BotLogic apart is that it actually shows the window of code as you create your line of icon instructions and it gives the extra challenge of trying to maintain “battery life” by using as short a set of instructions as possible.  You can compete with your friends to get the highest score, and you can share your scores on pretty much any social network.

BotLogic offers a short tutorial, and I think any child who can read could probably use the site independently.  It’s a good introduction to programming for any age level, as it slowly scaffolds from the very simple to the more complex.  This also allows for differentiation, as students can work at their own pace, and even skip levels.

Why should your child and/or students play BotLogic, or any other programming game?  Because it teaches logic, problem-solving, systems thinking, and, in some cases, collaboration.  Once a child learns the foundations of programming, the potential for creativity and design thinking becomes even greater.  Aren’t these skills we would like to develop in every child?


from:  http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1894919479/super-awesome-sylvias-watercolorbot-0?ref=recommended
from: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1894919479/super-awesome-sylvias-watercolorbot

Sylvia’s Super-Awesome Maker Show was first featured on this blog in May of 2012.   Sylvia has continued to develop her super awesome making talents.  You can view her projects, videos, and blog here.  But, her most exciting project to date is the WaterColorBot.

Since she launched her Kickstarter campaign to raise the money to produce the WaterColorBot, Sylvia has already exceeded her initial goal of $50,000.  It looks like the first WaterColorBot kits are scheduled to ship in September to certain levels of backers.  I am not sure when they will go on sale to the general public.

Sylvia’s invention combines creativity and programming skills.  Basically, once you build the machine with the kit provided, you will be able to program it to paint your artwork.  Want to make the same picture for Grandma in Maine and Grandpa in Texas?  Use the WaterColorBot, and they will both receive the same exact masterpiece!  You can watch the video below to see how it works.

I find Sylvia to be a passionate, inspiring young lady.  What’s more, I love that she is not sitting around and waiting until she grows up to accomplish something.  Want to motivate your students to work hard, dream, and create?  Sylvia is a role model with whom they can identify.