Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Try It You’ll Like It

There are lots of cool gadgets out there these days. A lot of them are being promoted as ways to get students excited about developing software. For young students we have all sorts of drag and drop programming languages. And we have educational robots. Then there are the alternative I/O devices like Kinect and the Myo Gesture Control Armband. How about programmable Wi-Fi enabled light bulbs? Oh my is this stuff awesome. But is it useful in my classroom/Lab? Maybe.

If you have really advanced students or a very flexible course curriculum you can hand a device off to students for testing. Not my situation at all unfortunately. I teach a very first programming course and only have a semester to teach it. I REALLY need to try things out before I hand them off to students.

The people at Thalmic Lab recently lent me a Myo and I’ve played with it a little. I’ve had Kinect devices for years. Recently I received a gift of a number of Wi-Fi enabled light bulbs as well. Exciting stuff!

But I have to say I don’t think any of it will work well in a one semester first programming course. If I had a full year for a second course or a post Advanced Placement course I sure would bring these things into play.

The problem is that too much knowledge is required to use much of this cool stuff. SOAP REST and the rest are a lot to show students who are just figuring out how to use loops and arrays. I might be able to put some scaffolding together and I am going to try to do some of that. But I can’t base my course around that.

The first real programming course is in an awkward middle place. One wants to go beyond drag and drop programming but you’re not ready for advanced concepts and tools. It can be a challenge.

BTW Garth Flint recently wrote about some of his experiences testing new teaching tools and curriculum at Something new, something blue


Garth said...

I am so glad I have some flexible courses. I had the councilor label a course "Programming Research". We get to do anything we/I want. Also having year long courses allows time to do some diverging. My Python class is taking February off from Python (almost). NXT robots with NXT-G, Microsoft VPL and NXT-Python. Same program, three languages, three very different environments. Lots of fun.

Alfred C Thompson II said...

I'd love to have what you have Garth. There are pros and cons to everything of course but sometimes I'd like to just wing it.