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

https://www.thecodehub.ie/cesi

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!

Get Creative with Code @ Dalkey Creates!

It’s been a busy October already at The Code Hub with our October Learn to Code session in full swing and a visit to Harold Boys National School for EU Code Week on Wednesday. Now we have our eyes set on Saturday, the 13th of October, for our sessions at Dalkey Creates, at Harold Boys National School in Dalkey.

Dalkey Creates
Dalkey Creates

We’re running three hour-long sessions at Dalkey Creates from 2-5pm on Saturday.

I’m particularly excited about working during the festival because I think using technology to express ourselves creatively opens up wonderful possibilities. That the festival have allowed us to run coding workshops alongside some amazing writing folks is a real treat and shows a real open mind.

Our box of goodies
Our box of goodies

We’re going to cater our work to all levels of programmers, from novices who have never coded a line or even heard of coding before to experts who are coding their own games and apps. We’ll explore some of the sensors and functionality of our iPads to place 3D characters (like our beloved Max the Fox, from Apple’s sample code). We’ll play with Sphero’s SPRK+, a little ball of a robot that lights up a room and can make slow shutter art. For all of it we’ll use Swift, which is the same programming language you can use to make apps for your iPhone, iPad, Mac, AppleTV, or Apple Watch.

Coding doesn’t have to just be about STEM, and we’re going to show you its Artsy side on Saturday. Our hope is that we introduce a new generation or two to the creative possibilities where they might have previously just seen a device for consumption.

Max the Fox
Max the Fox

Come Visit!

If you’re in Dalkey this weekend, be sure to check out any of the events on around town and then stop on by the Harold Boys school hall, where we’ll be getting creative with code!

And if you aren’t, it’s well worth a trip out on the DART, Dalkey is a gorgeous little village in South Dublin County. You might get a little bit wet with the weather, but then you can always pop by and get dry with an iPad and Swift Playgrounds…

Up Next

Up next for The Code Hub is another EU Code Week event at Loreto National School in Dalkey on Wednesday, and then we’ll be presenting two sessions at the Berlin Swift Educator Summit, put on by Apple on the Friday and Saturday. So if we don’t see you in Dalkey, maybe we’ll run into you in Berlin!

Celebrate EU Code Week with The Code Hub!

EU Code Week is coming up (where the week runs from the 6th to the 21st of October — don’t ask), are you ready?

EU Code Week and The Code Hub
EU Code Week and The Code Hub

The Code Hub will be running what are now our annual events at Harold Boys National School and Loreto National School in Dalkey, County Dublin, Ireland that you can attend if you’re a student at either of those schools.

And this year we’re excited to be running three separate hour of code sessions at Dalkey Creates, a brilliant writing and creative festival in town. It’s all a part of their DC Junior & Family Fun Day program, and we can’t wait to head down there with our iPads, a few Sphero SPRK+s, and some new goodies in Swift Playgrounds.

In all the sessions we’ll explore the stuff that makes so much of our world tick: code. We’ll tell stories, play with some software turtles, and program a robot or two.

So if you’re a student and you’re in the neighborhood (well, I hope you are, at least, since it’s a school day), enjoy the sessions. And if you’re curious about coding or what we do at The Code Hub or just want to get creative, come visit us at Harold Boys National School on the 13th of October at Dalkey Creates!

The Education Panel from the Digital Citizenship Summit Ireland

As I mentioned, I was at the Digital Citizenship Summit Ireland in April. The guys posted the video from the education panel, and if you have twenty minutes or so, you can watch us talk about digital citizenship in education.

My co-panelists and our moderator all had fascinating takes on the topic of being a digital citizen in the context of education and what it meant to each of them. I loved getting the perspective of a secondary school student, third level student (who ran that morning’s CoderDojo session), and a secondary school teacher who loves connecting schools from different locales, thanks to our digital connections.

DigCitSummit Ireland: Becoming a Digital Citizen in Education

It’s short notice, but if you’re in and around Dublin city center today I’ll be on a panel about Digital Citizenship in education at the Digital Citizenship Summit Ireland

Education Panel at the Digital Citizenship Summit Ireland
Education Panel at the Digital Citizenship Summit Ireland

We’ll be there in the Paccar Theatre at the Science Gallery Dublin from 12:15-12:40. See you there!

What is Computer Science?

You might think computer science is all about algorithms, arcane commands, and learning to think like a computer.

Learn to Code @ The Code Hub
Learn to Code @ The Code Hub

Doug Winnie touches on a lot of these points with his article “Why You Need to Know More Than Coding to Master Computer Science”; computer science is far more than just coding.

I agree with him. Computer science and the way I teach it at The Code Hub is all about opening up new possibilities for the students. This includes Doug’s touchstones of creativity, abstraction, data, algorithms, programming, devices, and even global impact.

One of my favorite moments in the class is when a student inevitably asks the question, “Hang on a sec, can I write a game like <name the game of the moment> with code like this?” That’s usually the moment the kid applies the stuff they’ve learned thus far to their own creative endeavors.

Digital Summit Ireland

Along those lines, Learning Tech Labs is hosting the Digital Citizen Summit at the beautiful Science Gallery Dublin on April 28th. It’s designed to explore the human connections we can build online and what that means for how we behave online.

So if you’re interested in the world in which our kids are growing up, it’s worth your while checking out the summit (it’s free!). I think it’ll be an interesting discussion for kids and adults alike.

Learn to Code Starting April 3rd 2018 in Dun Laoghaire — SOLD OUT!

I was all ready to post an article about the class I’m running at the Mounttown Community Facility in Dún Laoghaire, but it SOLD OUT IN TWO HOURS. Drop us a note if you want to get notified when the next class is scheduled.

The Launch of Learn to Code in Ireland

The Code Hub

The inaugural Learn to Code class starts on April 3rd and runs for five Tuesdays (until the 1st of May). It’s from 6pm-8pm in the evening at the Mounttown Community Facility and is for kids ages 8-12.
We start with offline activities to teach the kids language and logic they need to use to talk to computers. We’ll dissect a few devices (a Raspberry Pi, an Apple Watch) to see what makes them tick, what makes them the same, in some ways, under the hood.
After that basic introduction, we jump into coding on iPads, which are provided. We program in Swift, which is the same language app developers can use to make iPhone and iPad apps. We’ll use a thing called turtle graphics. I’ve brought a version of this tool to the iPad. The ideas behind turtle graphics came out of some interesting work Seymour Papert and Cynthia Solomon did, which they wrote about in a book called Mindstorms: Children, Computers, And Powerful Ideas. It lets kids relate geometric concepts to real life movement and coding at the same time. It’s done in a way that lets them quickly build and explore on their own.

Turtle Graphics on the iPad
Turtle Graphics in action on the iPad

We progress onto more complex computer programming concepts and go into stuff like programming robots (I have two of these very cool robots from Sphero called SPRK+). We explore augmented reality, where they can drop a 3D fox into a real life environment. And then we check out some really cool programming with material from a colleague of mine that plots the voyage of the Titanic, famous battles in Ireland, and an augmented reality challenge that uses characters from Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach.

So if that sounds interesting to your son or daughter, you can go sign up here: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/learn-to-code-tickets-43405747760*
* Of course, the class is sold out, so you can’t sign up at the moment. Contact me and I’ll drop you a line when the next set of classes is scheduled.

The Code Hub @ CoderDojo Dalkey

Just a quick note to say we’ll be sponsoring the next tranche down at CoderDojo Dalkey.

Swift Playgrounds
Swift Playgrounds

We’ll explore a variety of projects in Swift Playgrounds, including some of the challenge projects on CoderDojo Kata’s Swift Path

The playgrounds are based on some of the exercises in Learn to Code 3, so if you have an iPad with Swift Playgrounds it’s worth downloading that playground… and whether you do or don’t have it, there are free teacher guides for all the learn to code playgrounds that are excellent.

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