Tuesday, July 15, 2014

My Big Learning at CSTA 2014 Day 1–Not From A Session

Usually I’m good about writing up the events of a conference at the end of the day and putting up a blog post. Not this time. I blame it on Peli de Halleux from Microsoft Research. Peli is running a Code Hunt Contest for CSTA 2014 Attendees and I have been hard at work on it. Unfortunately I have already lost out on the top prize. I also lost some sleep as I stayed up too late working on Code Hunt puzzles when I probably should have been blogging or sleeping.

The experience has been teaching me a bit about myself. I assumed I would whip though the puzzles and quickly win the contest. Not the case at all. I’m running into two types of problems. One is that I apparently don’t code enough. I keep running into stupid syntax problems. C# is case sensitive and I am a bit more comfortable in Visual Basic which is not. The other language available in Code Hunt is Java which is also case sensitive. Peli tells me that Java is there specifically because so many teachers use it. He is REALLY interested in making the tool educationally useful. So I forget syntax or language features that mean I have to think a bit about that.

The other problem I have is trouble figuring out the right algorithm. In a brief conversation with Peli I found out that there are puzzles with a wife variation in the number of attempts people make. One question for example is solved with a simple division. Many people solve it in a small number of tries. Other people take many many tries and get frustrated. I think there is a research study there for people interested in how people solve problems. Some of the puzzles seem to fit nicely into the way my mind works while others just don’t.

Code Hunt is very “sticky” according to Peli. What that means is that people who start working on it tend to stay working on it for a while. And they return. I suspect that some will get frustrated and stay away but that for people who find it a good way to play and learn it will indeed be sticky.

I’m going to be learning more about how to use Code Hunt features today. Apparently one can use it with Office Mix for example. (I blogged about Office Mix and Binary Numbers with a sample Mix linked.)

And teachers can create their own Code Hunt puzzles for their students. Combining Office Mix and Code Hunt will give me some analytics which I think will help me improve my teaching and student’s learning. Pretty exciting stuff.

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