This week I immersed myself in learning the basic principles, structure and commands of Python, so I did not do many of the week’s optional activities. Here is a summary of how I approached week 5.
Help with Scripts: I went on to the Help with Scripts discussion forum on the Scratch website a couple of times and read through the posts but I did not find any posts where I could give specific, constructive help that someone else had not already answered better. Pro-tip: When asking for help on a forum have a specific question in mind, and give as much detail as you can about the difficulties you are encountering.
Hardware and Extensions: I did not do anything with this activity other than to think to myself, “Gee whiz there are a lot of neato gadgets that you can interact with using scratch”.
Unfocus Group: I greatly enjoyed this activity but I ended up having an unfocus group of one. I sent out emails to a musician friend who is also an open-source advocate and programmer, another tech crazy elementary teach in Nebraska, and a childhood friend who I learned to code with when we were 13 or 14. Only Brad, my childhood friend was able to take some time with me to discuss my project. Unlike me, Brad continued to explore computer programming throughout his life. He is a freelance programmer and database designer who now lives in northern Minnesota. We had a wide ranging skype chat that meandered in the manner of conversations between old friends.
Brad was fascinated by the concept of SCRATCH as a programming language to teach programming. He also gave me several suggestions about choosing an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) including Eclipse (which is free and open source) and JetBrains, which is a commercial product but it has several cheaper or free options for teachers or open-source projects. Brad’s point was if you choose get a multi-language, full-featured IDE, then you don’t need to relearn your programming environment every time you have a desire or need to learn a new programming language.
As I am writing this Brad popped up in my skype window… (I love years long, asynchronous text conversations). He writes:
[10:47:50 AM] Brad: Heh, of course, there is a good argument to be made that no-one appreciates what an IDE does for them until they first use a text-based editor. Notepad++ is a very nice text editor and has all the hooks into any language you want to use, plus user-customizable language settings too. So maybe the need to pick an IDE is not as great as the need to just simply starting to build something.
I have used Notepad++ for years when I need to directly work in html code. I have used it during my python explorations and it is very effective at color coding and indenting python code. It does not have an integrated python interpreters or debuggers so you have to run your program within python or another IDE. Otherwise it is a fantastic editor for almost any language or situation when you have to directly edit or write code.
Activity Extension: I looked at the templates for making a Scratch card, but decided to devote more time to my Python Project instead.
Workshop Project: Reporting Out and Checking In
Here’s our checklist for this activity…
- Add a page in your design notebook and share an update about your independent workshop project progress, by responding to the red/yellow/green reflection prompts:
Red: What are some elements of your project that aren’t going well, that you’re worried about, or that you’d love advice about?
The thing I find most frustrating. is the amount of time it takes to type then to debug code. I think the metaphor of programming language to spoken language is appropriate because they say it takes 1-2 years to gain facility in a new language. This is beyond the scope of a 3 week project, but I have made a good start at learning.
Yellow: What are some elements of your project that you are just OK, or that you’re feeling ambivalent about?
I’m going to reinterpret this question to: What else do you want to write about or explore? A couple of times a commenter has asked me about how my project can help students jump into a career in IT. As a podcaster and musician, I have a knee jerk reaction to “How do you make money doing THAT?” questions of “I don’t know and I don’t care”. But this question needs a longer and more sensitive blog reflection which I would like to write this week.
Green: What are some elements of your project that are awesome or that you’re excited about?
I am enjoying the problem solving and puzzle nature of learning to make games in a new programming language. I would like to continue doing that, even after the CCOW workshop ends.
Other Posts for Week 5:
And One More Thing:
This week I installed two wordpress plugins into my blog to display python code (and indeed almost any kind of programming code) with correct formatting and color coding: W-P Code Highlight and Sunburst Code Prettify.