Thursday, 13 November 2014

CodeClub: TWSU DIY Gamer Week 8

We started off today with a short chat about the amazing Philae comet landing. I'd changed the background wallpaper on my laptop to the latest picture taken by the CIVA . We talked about the similarities between what they were doing in CodeClub - programming hardware - to the kind of robotics control needed by something like Roesetta.  I was pleased by how much they knew about the mission and wasn’t surprised to find this group really enthusiastic and excited by the technology involved. 

I don’t want CodeClub to be a ‘sit and listen to teacher’ lesson but after my experience last week I felt I needed to try to get everyone at roughly the same stage. Part of the problem is that there is quite a wide range of ability across the group. A couple of the boys who do a lot of programming at home have been whizzing ahead whereas one pair who haven’t really done much coding outside of CodeClub are struggling a little. It is interesting to see that the age of the children has no relationship to ability (the two high flyers are from years 4 & 5).

So this week I got everyone to follow along with me as I went through the worksheet.  It worked reasonably well. It definitely helped that I could point out to the group that they didn’t really need to do much typing. Once you’ve typed the block of code to display the spaceship once, you can simply copy and paste it and just edit the coordinates. As a lazy programmer that is an obvious approach to me but a lot of the children don’t always think of that and set themselves up for some unnecessary typing. 

Having been shown the shortcut they were able to make much quicker progress  through the worksheet. I was also able to save them having to do a lot of reading by explaining what was happening as we went along. 

Although the session perhaps felt a little more stilted than usual, on reflection I think it was the right approach and I think everyone got a better grip on the concepts as a result. 

I let all the children work individually unless they really wanted to share the typing. Swapping the Gamer devices between PCs doesn’t cause too many problems but it does slow things down a little.  Every now and then the Arduino sketch editor throws and error when trying to upload the new code and needs to be unplugged and then reconnected. 

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