CESI Conference 2019: Using Swift Playgrounds for Creativity in Coding with the Code Hub


I finally made it to CESI Conference, a gathering of educators across Ireland who are doing some inspiring stuff with and for their students. They’ve developed a supportive, engaged community of practice around the use of computers and technology and how they can be applied in teaching. This conference is a crown jewel (along with the CESI*CS meetups run by Dr. Millwood). Last year the beast from the east snowed out the conference and the makeup date fell on a date I just couldn’t make, and I had to back out of my planned talk on Turtle Graphics on the iPad.

Turtle Graphics on the iPad 2018

So I was delighted that this year’s conference theme was “Creativity, Collaboration, and Computers: Practitioner Perspectives” and that I had a good deal to talk about in that space. My talk on using cross-curricular Swift Playgrounds in your classroom is a way to introduce coding in a fun, creative way. Now, I was slightly less delighted when I had to shift my talk from the afternoon to the morning to try and make it back to Dublin for a poetry feis, especially as the shift happened after the schedules were printed, but the CESI staff were super accommodating. They even gave me an extra half an hour for my slot! And the attendees of the workshop were diligent in tracking me down from room to room. Some of them have careers as hunting dogs, should the teacher thing not work out.

Creative Coding

The talk part of the workshop went into my background and how the material for The Code Hub has grown over the years. The most compelling reason for me to start a new project isn’t coding for the sake of coding but it’s most often to solve a problem or scratch an itch I feel acutely, and the goal of the Swift Playgrounds I highlighted was to showcase a variety of problem-solving scenarios that might hook a student’s imagination.

We explored playgrounds related to the visual: turtle graphics, Apple’s Puzzle World and Learn to Code playgrounds.

We looked at a few playgrounds that are more text-based, like the Answers playground from Apple, the Shakespeare insult generator, my own Text Adventure playground, and a cool escape room-like playground from some educators in Spain.

The Cipher playground from Apple deserves a special call-out for its story-telling aspect and most approachable crypto content I think you’ll find anywhere.

We looked at playgrounds that use the iPad sensors like the Augmented Reality and the Sensor Create and Arcade playgrounds from Apple.

Because they’re adding things to or interacting things in the room in which they sit, these are great resources for paired (or more) use. I love the buzz in a classroom when we use these playgrounds as kids are up walking around, showing off the world they’ve superimposed on our own.

I’ll post the slides at some point in the near future, but in the meantime I’ve posted the links to the resources I used at https://www.thecodehub.ie/cesi.

So stop by, grab an iPad and subscribe to a few of the playground feeds listed there and try them out!