воскресенье, 26 ноября 2017 г.

Lesson with kids: Robot BB-8. Just believe it and program

  


Do you believe? Do you think it is good to believe? Since what age do you tell your kids that there is no Santa Claus?
For already several last years, I consider myself an adult. In my understanding a grown-up is a person who can be responsible for others and who attempts to lead the win-win strategy with everyone. I watch myself; I watch others’ behavior and I compare to find out the best ways and viewpoints.
Last time I decided to try to teach programming to the little ones not just in an interesting and easy to accept way, but to make a fairy tale in which kids would be the main actors and coding - the most emotional and so memorable part.

  

The pirate fairy tale


Once upon a time in a far-far-away galaxy there was an enchantress. She saw a group of kids with her magic ball. They were amicable nice children, with interests and keen to knowledge and programming in specific, so she decided to give them a robot who would be their friend and helper. She also decided to join the kids for the time while they learn how it works.

The story has begun, kids got into it and started treating me as enchantress, play with BB-8 and ask about its features. The costume helped. When everyone had a chance to touch the robot and feel how it works, we continued.

Kids had a treasure: tangerines and candies. The fairy night was coming and so they hid it. In order not to forget where the treasure was, they wrote a message on BB-8, with the location of the treasure. After, went to sleep.

It’s nice to make the breaks after activity, even if it’s interesting, helps to organise the little ones, they remind always moving electrons when super active. Even to sit for a moment and pretend calmness helps a lot.

While everyone was sleeping, the pirate, who was hiding and watched the kids’ play, stole the robot as the source of the information where the treasure was. When everyone got up, they found BB-8 wasn’t there. The pirate showed up and said that now he was the owner of not just the robot, but also of the treats. Yet, if the kids want to get it back, they are to implement what the pirate wants and maybe come up with interesting ideas of how to make him happy.

At this moment the kids are emotional. They had the BB-8 (kindly Bibik), now it’s not theirs, they had the treasure and now they can lose it. That’s just the great moment to learn to program the robot because the memories will stay for long time. Besides this is the moment to teach kids how to behave in such a situation. The best would be to calm the offender down and relax him. In such a state it’s possible to deal and get what they want.
Depending on the level of kids, the tasks differ. I’ll propose several for the beginners.

As soon as the kids agreed to please the pirate, he started giving them the tasks.
  1. I had a dog in the childhood who I loved a lot. I want you to make the robot come to me, bark and run away.
  2. Now I want BB-8 to make a circle around me when he comes.
  3. I want him to make it many times and sometimes mew instead of barking, I like cats too.
  4. And finally I’d like to remember the moon from my childhood. In the cave where I lived, it seemed to be green and blue. I’d like to look at the robot and feel wat I felt back then.  
It’s good to tease kids they won’t make it, they get more energy to achieve the thing. In all cases there is an enchantress to help. Also pirate has to get happy when kids implemented what he wanted. They need the adoration.

  

All in all, while watching the moon, pirate remembered how his parents loved him and how happy he was in his youth, and fell asleep. Kids realised this was the time to take action: take BB-8, with the treasures and run away. Then think again if they behaved nicely, come back, leave several candies to the pirate and run away for real.

The fairy tail finishes happily by discussing all what has happened, eating the treasures and drawing funny faces on the tangerines.  

The game is great and kids loved it. I tested it on 3 groups and for sure far not always everything went as it was planned.
Such a game works nice with the children of 8-10 years. They get so involved that might start beating the pirate for taking the robot away. On one lesson, the pirate appeared while kids were not sleeping, and so got into a jail. The situation and scenario was rescued by the tennis table where kids were sent for a break. Older ones (10-12) started discussing the law system and what should happen to a pirate after he took the robot. They also were concerned if to follow the pirate’s requests to program the robot, because they have the right not to. In the very end they did make a great dog and then asked the pirate for the photo session with them.

Always be ready to be flexible and brainstorm yourself depending on the situation.
 
 
 

понедельник, 30 октября 2017 г.

Lesson with Kids: Making the Big Project (talk at JavaOne)

This year I had honor to speak at JavaOne Conference in San Francisco, CA. I delivered a talk about teaching programming to kids. Despite keynotes and several other interesting talks at the same time, there were around 120 people, parents, willing to find out, how to show their kids what the programming is. They wondered from what to start and how to deal with the computer games which might seem more interesting to children than programming. In this article I’ll highlight some of the ideas from the talk and write about the experience of making the big project with a group of children. The presentation to the talk is here.

Every kid takes his parents as gods: they give everything, they decide almost everything in the life of the little one and they leave for jobs making kids wait for ages feeling lonely and abandoned. For sure each kid wishes to find out, what is remarkably important and interesting at that job, so that the parent changes the cozy place at home and family company for it. The children of my colleagues are happy not only to visit the parent’s work place but also to feel pretty much what their parents feel on the developer’s place.

First of all let’s discuss some rules you’re to follow when operating with children
  1. Nurture love to learning in a kid, don’t make punishment out of striding.
  2. Give comprehensible, possible to implement relatively short task. The leftovers (merging) you can do by yourself at first.
  3. Put the task into the shiny cover so that it looks appealing to the kid.
  4. Provide the surface to work. The less obstacles there are to start — the better.
  5. Expect the results, show you care about the process and can help if needed.

Outcome: by any means the first project should be something to be proud of. Pull it to the pretty condition together if needed, pretend that kid does an important job. Don’t say: «It’s only the first project, that’s fine that it barely works». Rather emphasize: «You’re really smart, you’ve managed to do such a great job, and I believe your next project will be even better»!

How to make one big project with kids

Project: a computer game which kids design on their own.
Kid’s number: initially the idea was designed and tested on a group of kids (6-8 persons). You also can do it with one child but better invite a friend of his. 
Kid’s age: 10-12 (initial group), but can probably be a bit younger and for sure older.
Programming language: Scratch. It’s good because it’s easy to code in it, it’s visual, fits for the little ones. Older, 14+, can start from more «adult» language. 
Total time: 2 lessons * 2 hours. 
Amount of lessons before the Big Project: 4+.
Adults number: 2 teachers, one for each subgroup + 1 to review (optional).

Steps of the Big Project
  1. Sit in circle, come up with the general idea of what to develop. Brainstorm, kids will catch up and produce many ideas you would never think of.
  2. Divide the project into logical parts or tasks which can be implemented by one group.
  3. Create the teams responsible for the big tasks, who will analyze them precisely, and implement them with the moderator (teacher). There is always someone who is a leader, who «knows how to do something». This kid should take the responsibility, so that others would choose to go to him and help.
     
  4. Divide the big task for the little ones and make sure each kid sits at the comp and programs something.
  5. Merge the parts and get the better idea of the full project. This is an example of a thought task kids might screw up and which is not really interesting. Everyone has an idea of how it should be, but not many want to implement. 
  6. Each kid should have an idea of how to make the common project better and more interesting. The best ideas are taken spread among others and discussed.
  7. As far as the children already felt the process of writing the code, they should try it on their own. Each implements the discussed idea. Implemented tasks are merged by kids with teacher’s help.
  8. When new part is added, the ones who have finished their work play the updated game. When all the planned parts are in the project, teacher plays the game on the big screen. Bugs are discussed and fixed. It’s happiness and a reason to be proud for a child when see theirs part in the project!
  9. It is good when there is someone who can review the project and who wasn’t involved in its creation. We didn’t simply made the project as one of the tasks. We played a game: some private entrepreneur wrote a letter in which asked kids to be his team and write some game. He mentioned requirements there. At one lesson we had a dog who he sent to watch at the process. The idea of a dog worked only for part of the kids, other part wanted to play with it. When we had the project, we invited the customer and he was the one to review and comment it, wish something else. As far as that was the last class, kids were proposed to continuer the project and implement the requests of the customer on their own. So if you're making a home project, call mom or grandparents who didn’t participate to look at in in the end and tell their ideas and wishes, how to make it better.

Link to the repository with the common game we created
https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/162178622/

This task gives special feelings of being involved in the process, makes everyone valuable team member and helps understand that it’s possible to create something big.


How to persuade a kid to program rather than play computer games?

Computer games cause addiction. Many people nowadays are addicted to seen actions which should happen all the time. No action - life is boring. As I can see by watching some programmers and my 15 years old nephew, programming can also be an addiction. You run to job/home to turn on your computer and write some code! 

The interesting part is how to switch mind from playing to coding. What I can advice is to take all the obstacles from the way, e.g., install by yourself or together all what is needed, don’t make a kid do boring stuff, think together of some project which will be interesting. Put the goals and achieve them. Pleasure from getting what you wanted is also addictive. 

When the kid is taught to like the interesting part of the project, start showing him the parts which go together with it. Every little one wants to become independent. All in all, he’ll start doing all the process with merges and bug fixes on his own. Don’t take his achievements, let him do all he can on his own.

I hope this article gave you some ideas how to work with your kid(s). Will be happy to give more advice and answer the questions. Good luck and have fun! ;) 


вторник, 2 мая 2017 г.

Kids Learn Programming: Working as a Team

This week Ivan and I decided to show the kids of IT specialists what their parents do at work. The process of software development had been explained at the previous lesson, but the kids wanted to participate in it, write the code and feel as they are a part of the process. Here is how we did it.

A letter was sent to our group by a young businessman who wanted us to write him a game and present a demo version in the end of the lesson. The idea of the game had to be something like a flappy bird: a bird which flies by pressing the space key and has to avoid the obstacles. Here is our example. The customer wanted something different instead of the bird, and the obstacles to be more interesting than regular pipes. He wanted the game to have several levels and be distinctive. He also brought a (generous and loving) dog to watch how his task is moving. The dog stayed with us till the end of the lesson.

Kids got involved in the task, tried to guess who was the customer, started telling their ideas how to implement the stuff. Some of them told that we could make a nyan cat instead of a bird, and make him handle the comets. It was hard to come to a common denominator about the rest and in order to have enough time to do the job so we decided to split. Three kids with one tutor stayed making the cat, and other 4 kids went to come up with ideas about the logic of game levels, environment, and such, plus implement some.
Many of us in order to achieve certain goal act as they feel like. In the end, some really get what they wanted but others fail and agree not to have what they initially planned. That’s not how it’s done in development where the result has to be predictable. So after we collected the ideas and before doing anything, we wrote business stories. They looked like:

Given: as a player
When: I press “Start” button
Then: cat flies straight.
We planned how much time we’ll spend for which story, thought of acceptance criteria and made a table where tasks were assigned to the certain kids. Truth is, in the process when some felt they can do better and the author of the story agreed, the keyboard was taken by the more willing kid. Unfortunately, the timeframes weren’t kept and it took us longer than we planned, but that's the reality.
Brainstorming is a nice and helpful technique. I tried to get an idea from each kid so that we all develop general logic of the game and make something really nice. It worked out better with 4 kids rather than 7. Some were too shy and didn’t want to speak unless they have to. Finally, while all were making the first level, one guy designed and draw the elements for the next levels, eating which affected the cat in different ways. However, that was too much for half an hour that we were supposed to work in separate teams. During this time, at least one level had to be implemented in full. The ones who drew nicely or knew where to get the sprites (the boys) did the drawing. The shy ones (the girls) wrote the code for the level. We did it all using one computer and one projector. In the end, everyone participated in every task.
When both teams were done with the elementary stuff, we came together for the merge. Everyone was excited about how it’s gonna work out together. The teacher did the merge because no one knew how to do it. But when we checked what it looked like, it turned out that there is no code for when the cat bumps into the comets. This we fixed together.
This all was interesting and important. But what we are typically afraid of most is what will others say about our work, thoughts, and ideas. Will they like and share them? So the customer came to look at what he’s gonna earn money with. (The customer was a friend of teachers’ who the kids didn’t know.) He thoroughly examined the functionality, read the stories, and checked if they worked as expected. The most enjoyable comments of his were:
“This looks like a cookie, I didn’t realize this is the comet I’ve got to omit rather than eat!”
“Why does the cat say “Meow” when it bumps? Does it like to?”
When criticizing something, try to do it in a kind and even funny way, still so that the kid understands that his work has to be improved but he won’t get afraid of punishment or being disliked.
To sum up, the kids learnt to put the task in a form of a story (Given, When, Then), learnt to track the tasks and to work together on a common project.

среда, 12 апреля 2017 г.

Lesson with Kids: Handling the Failure


Imagine (or remember) the situation, where you are the teacher and have to deal with kids.

What Can Go Wrong During the Lesson?

  1. Teacher isn’t able to explain the material. Result: kids lose interest in the subject and may even stop listening to the teacher altogether.
  2. Teacher runs out of time. Not everything he wanted to explained reaches kids’ ears. Result: all the planning for the following lessons is messed up.
  3. Teacher explains the lesson too fast. In the end, he doesn’t know what to do with the time left.

Who to Blame?

  1. Kids who come late. Some kids showed up late, so the teacher was disturbed while presenting the material, or even started later because of waiting.
  2. Kids who behave badly. Some of them just cannot sit calmly and do whatever the teacher wants them to. They do their own stuff, talk to each other, play with their pens or toys.
  3. Plan of the lesson. If the material is too easy, it’s boring. On the other hand, if the material is too hard, the kids might not be prepared well enough to do the job. Therefore, some of them skip the lessons, others don’t do their homework, yet others are just not smart enough to get the formulas etc.
  4. Teacher who didn’t prepare well enough. Teachers also want their spare time, they can’t always produce new amazing ideas for each lesson to keep kids interested, and they also have their mindset that doesn’t allow for quick adapting to new situations.

Remedy

Some time ago, I learnt that the original sin was not the disobedient behaviour towards God, but rather making someone else the reason of your own fault: Adam blamed Eve and she blamed the serpent. So I’d like to propose not to look for the bad guy here but rather to see what can be done.

Let’s start with the last point. You may think you prepared the lesson nicely, but sooner of all, you’re not the one to evaluate it. Those who listen to you are to judge. If, however, the kids are the troublemakers indeed, it doesn’t matter if they are too active, too passive, come late, or skip the lessons. There are 2 things that can help:


1) It’s about the redundant energy that searches the way out. What the teacher needs to do is to show the right direction for the energy to eject by giving out active tasks, communication tasks, and other activities that involve kids as life models. The more shy ones should participate as well but act from passive positions.


2) Much depends on being able to tell the material in an interesting way. When the teacher does just that, typically, even those who have problems with managing themselves start listening. The teacher needs to make every child feel like they are participants of the lesson, propose to make the decisions, say their ideas out loud and describe the opinion. Students should not realise themselves passive bystanders watching the boring theatre of one actor. And believe me, it might take even fewer resources of yours to prepare such a lesson where you’ll rely on the help from the auditorium.


What we haven’t tackled yet is the plan issue. The teacher can either change the plan altogether or adapt it to the needs of the kids. When both options are impossible, possibly he should change the job is still left.

An Example from Real Life

Andrii Savchuk, Ivan Godzynskyi and me were to teach together. We wrote a detailed schedule of the lesson and planned who does what.

At first, while discussing the homework*, each child would mention the most interesting and the hardest moments they’d experienced. After one of the trainers would show the new material, then the “cookies break,” a game to show how the events work in real life, and another piece of theory about events in Scratch. Then we planned to discuss the future projects for the kids. Sounds good enough for 1.5 hours, isn’t it?



The first issue we faced was that kids were talking too quietly, and only nearby people could hear them. When we were presenting the new material, something went wrong, and then something else didn’t work as expected. The new material part started taking too much time, and the goal to do all planned was at risk.


The reason for all this was bad preparation. Happened once, was obvious, will be fixed next time. But, the lesson is not about the teacher, and even not about the material. Its main goal is to inspire to create, act, and try out the subject under discussion.


In the end, we had to get rid of some part of the lesson. Which one to drop? Maybe not the theoretical material because it’s most important and kids will probably understand it without the game**? Still, we decided to do with the game. At least the little ones left the classroom feeling happy, and we were kind of sure that they would want to come back to find out more, even though the first part of the lesson was not good enough.

* Some hunting projects kids started in class, continued at home and had to make more advanced in the lesson again



** The game we played: there was a labyrinth put (drawn, made with strings or paper) on the floor. One kid would have his eyes closed with cloth so that he sees nothing. Others are the "listeners". They wait for the occasion to tell where the child with closed eyes needs to move. But one kid can say only one type of move: straight, turn left, bind, etc. As a result, one behaves as a computer and others are directions from the programmer.

Have fun with your kids and be wise :)

воскресенье, 2 апреля 2017 г.

Первый урок с детьми

Я уже не раз как учитель пробовала проводить урок и для детей и для взрослых. В этот раз надо было скооперироваться с двумя другими парнями: Андреем Савчуком и Иваном Годжинским, которые тоже имели желание передать свои знания в интересной форме детям 10-12 лет и показать им, что такое программирование.


Когда мы боимся, скорей всего это не что-то конкретное, а незнание, чего ждать, ведь кабы знал, где упасть, соломки бы подослал. Исходными данными было то, что дети придут на курсы впервые. Из этого можно было бы сделать вывод, что они не знакомы со Scratch (язык программирования, использующий блоки как операции над объектами-спрайтами, на котором пишутся в первую очередь простые видеоигры). При более подробном изучении вопроса о знаниях детей, оказалось, что кто-то в школе уже на программировании учился “играть” в скреч, а кто-то не впервые на курсы пришел. Таким образом непонятно, какой глубины знания у ребят и что им будет интересно.


Страшно не угадать, но начинать с чего-то надо было. Мы решили, что каждый урок должен стартовать увлекательно, какого бы уровня знания у ребенка не были. Когда настроение приподнятое, то и скучная работа не такая горькая. Развеселить детей решили небольшим квестом, частью которого было поедание печенек. Удивительно, но дети оказались скромными и ни один не взял печенье во время прохождения заданий, заявив, что там написано “в случае, если ты голодный”, а голодным никто не оказался.


Квест был не простой. Он был направлен на изучение блок-схемы. Мы хотели дать понимание, что программа слепо следует предписанным указаниям. Поэтому, когда начали обсуждать процесс написания программы, прошлись по всем заданиям опять, объясняя уже те же пункты с машинной точки зрения. Видимо, знакомство и игра в снежный ком сыграли свою роль и дети себя чувствовали уже свободнее, что было видно по поеданию печенек.


Желание решить задачу у одних людей возникает после того, как им в голову вложить новые знания, которые они еще не применяли. Другим же лучше сначала показать задачу, которую они не представляют, как решить, и только в том случае они в голову будут записывать новые знания, касающиеся задачи. Поскольку все мы разные, способы лучше чередовать даже в пределах одной темы. Так я и делала. Первым делом предложила всем знакомый из мультика “Том и Джери” сюжет, который надо было написать на скрече. Бабуля, хозяйка Тома, чем-то занята, и тут появляется мышь. Старушка кричит, залазит на стул и зовет на помощь своего питомца. Тот бросается на охоту. Вот несколько картинок из моей программы, которую я для тренировки написала дома.




Когда наблюдаешь за “мозговым штурмом”, который в группе детей часто сам образуется, кажется, что дети - это вьющаяся речка, которая иногда разливается и даже меняет русло. У них свое представление о мире и склонности, идеи, которые брызжут наружу и мотивации. Я старалась создать запланированный красивый законченный продукт, показав для кого-то первую историю успеха в программировании. Но мои мысли и идеи могут не совпадать с детскими. А ведь то, что я (мы) делаем, должно быть близко в первую очередь детям. Поэтому очень важно не держаться за свою идею, а дать детям зерно, показать, что надо делать, чтоб оно выросло, а там уже только отслеживать, что они движутся в правильном направлении. Поэтому именно дети выбирали персонажей, комнату и думали со мной вместе, что где надо написать, чтоб персонажи работали по задумке, которых становилось все больше и больше в процессе обсуждения. Те, кто уже был знаком со скречем, предлагали, куда нажимать и что делать; им было интересно показать свои знания новым людям. Для тех, кто впервые видел программу, мы разбирали основные блоки, которые могли бы пригодиться. Таким образом и новички и опытные были вовлечены.
Вот картинки того, что у нас вышло. Суть осталась та же, но вместо бабули мы предпочли девочку-рок фанатку, которая зеленеет от разного рода неблаговидной живности, а мышка превратилась в жука, ведь они тоже страшные, сказала одна девочка. Так что если у вас в программе заведутся баги - вы знаете, кого на них натравить ;)


За каждую часть урока, длящегося полтора часа, отвечал разный тренер. Такой подход позволил каждому из нас проявить себя и подготовить что-то интересное и полезное не перетруждаясь.


На перерыве было интересно поговорить с детьми. Один мальчик поделился тем, что любит пить именно теплую колу, ведь так ты вкус ощущаешь сильнее, и спрашивал, кто тоже так делает. Две девочки поразительно быстро сошлись и решили сидеть за одним компьютером. Смотришь на детей и тоже начинает хотеться научиться их легкости, простоте и умению подмечать естественное, будучи без предрассудков. Нам, взрослым, порой этого очень не хватает.


Другая часть урока состояла из написания самой программы погони кота за мышью. Как вы уже могли догадаться, только у половины детей “все шло по плану”. Те, кто не вошли в ту половину, писали охоту или голубого льва на лошадь или кота но на голубя или лесного привидения на льва. Один мальчик явно продвинутого уровня решил написать квест, суть которого была в том, чтоб спасти девочку. Для этого надо было отвлечь кота мячиком, забрать ключ, который тот охранял, войти в дом, взять вуду-куклу, после чего появится коробка, которой следовало накрыть мышь и таким образом очаровать девушку, теряющую сознание :)

Задание:
Это предложл сделать тренер

Вот, что вышло:
Котик охотится на голубя
Альтернативный лев доганяет лошадку

Мистика в черном лесу


Квест "Спасти девочку (современную принцессу)"


Да, кто-то таки делал, что говорил тренер

После урока думали, может кого-то перевести в группу для более высокого уровня знаний, но, пожалуй, не будем. И для самих же детей и для взрослых хорошо конкурировать, это стимулирует к большему развитию. Когда не все одинаково учат и делают, что предлагают взрослые, это снижает прогресс и не дает возможности самовыражаться. В таких случаях самовыражение начинает проявляться другими способами, которые могут быть хуже, чем если под контролем взрослого. Приятно наблюдать за развитием твоей идеи и подпитывать этот процесс, стимулируя себя и других к большему развитию.