Yet another Scratch programming workshop for kids – TEDxYouth@Flanders 2012

1 Comment


Long story short: The children were excited but I was probably more excited than them during the “Programming and creativity using Scratch” workshop series that took place at Koninklijk Atheneum Antwerpen as part of the TEDxYouth@Flanders 2012. Both the morning and the afternoon sessions went very well, and it was a unique experience exploring the fundamentals of computational thinking with children while helping them take their first steps into programming using Scratch. After this event, I have decied to publish my “Scratch Workshop Agenda” document under a Creative Commons license so that other people who would like to organize similar events could be able to take this as a starting point. It is also very nice to see that the previous version of this document had been used at the Devoxx4Kids events (held in Dutch and then French).

Programming and creativity using Scratch - 1

Programming and creativity using Scratch – 1

More

Advertisements

How can a group of kids multiply their creativity by learning to code?

1 Comment


Recently we have decided to put Belgium on the map by introducing computer programming to kids by using the wonderful and child-friendly, multilingual Scratch programming environment. And what time could be better than the International Scratch Day 2012 for this mission? Thanks to the facilities and support provided by Antwerp International School, not only the students from this school, but also children from other parts of the Antwerp were able to join this one-day introductory workshop.

I had a lot of fun by watching the immense creativity of children from 9-year olds to 13-year olds. Before the workshop started I had some doubts, but the enthusiasm of the children, especially after learning the simplest programming concepts, and seeing that they could easily apply these to colorful graphics and sounds, had a powerful and multiplying effect on them. Another nice aspect of the event was the collaboration between children, between boys and girls; in order to help each other overcome some technical challenges. You can visit http://scratch.mit.edu/users/scratchdaybelgium12 to see a sample of the projects created by the children during the day.

One of the many projects created on the International Scratch Day 2012 @ Antwerp, Belgium

One of the many projects created on the International Scratch Day 2012 @ Antwerp, Belgium

The event lasted slightly more than 3 hours, and it turned out to be above my expectations: at the end of the day, we had to scratch the kids off the computers so that they could go home, and of course continue coding there, using what they learned that day and what they are going to learn in the upcoming days, with the help of Scratch community.

I hope this event is going to inspire similar events, because I believe in the importance of introducing computational thinking concepts and patterns to children from a very early age, so that they can be computational problem solvers in any field they choose to study in the future. I think this also means going beyond merely being a “digital  native”, and becoming a producer of ideas and implementations rather than just being a passive consumer of Internet entertainment and data explosion.

Let’s put Belgium on the map: International Scratch Day 2012 @ Antwerp

1 Comment


Let’s put Belgium on the map: International Scratch Day 2012 @ Antwerp, Belgium

This is a free workshop for kids who want to step into the wonderful world of programming, creativity and computational thinking. For more information please visit http://day.scratch.mit.edu/event/593

International Scratch Day 2012 @ Antwerp, Belgium

International Scratch Day 2012 @ Antwerp, Belgium

International Scratch Day 2012 @ Antwerp, Belgium

International Scratch Day 2012 @ Antwerp, Belgium

What does an 8-year old girl think about robots? A very short story about “The Smallest Robot” – “De allerkleinste robot”

1 Comment


As followers of this blog may have already noticed, I’ve been giving introductory programming classes to children and nowadays I have a student who is 12 years old. During our lessons, her sister (8 years old) is always very curious about what we talk about and she is generally surprised at what her elder sister can do with Scratch. A few weeks ago, with the help of a robotics book, I gave a lesson about robotics and prepared an assignment to create a very simple robotics simulator in which a hand-drawn robot should go around an obstacle and reach the treasure box. Next week, to my astonishment, not only did I receive a simple and interesting Scratch program from my student, but also a short story on robots from her little sister. The story is titled “De allerkleinste robot” and it is about very little robots, witches and wizards. I have to admit that I’m totally speechless when it comes to the imagination of a child:

De allerkleinste robot - The smallest robot

De allerkleinste robot - The smallest robot

What to do with your kids on a weekend? Visit the European Astronaut Centre on German Aerospace Day

3 Comments


There is an excellent opportunity for parents living in Belgium (or anywhere that is not far from Cologne, Germany) that presents itself every two years: German Aerospace Day. The latest event took place last year, and unfortunately our son was just a few months old then. Thus I decided to take a field trip and get familiar with the environment, so that maybe next time (or four years later) I can take him to this wonderfully exciting event in which a child can ask questions directly to the astronauts or walk inside the 1:1 scaled of International Space Station‘s Columbus module. And then maybe go through the initial procedures of applying for being an astronaut. On the more adventurous side, he can join the other children and build rockets, and then test them in real-time 😉 (Well, I’m sure some parents will have at least as much as their children, if not more.)

German Aerospace Day

German Aerospace Day

More

Programming for Kids – Action Time – Part 2 – Too young to hack?

Leave a comment


Too young to hack?

Too young to hack?


I had the great opportunity to attend to the second meeting of Devoxx4Kids yesterday evening. The main difference from the first one was the fewer number of people, but this in no way translated into a lack of enthusiasm or the intensity of brainstorming combined with fantastic surprises and toys.

We had our special guests from Dwengo, a Belgian non-profit that produces great electronic programmable boards (“everything in one package, better than Arduino” they say), as well as different types of robots and aim to bring together young minds and easily hackable systems together. After witnessing their demonstrations at the Robocup Junior event a few weeks ago, it was a serendipity for me to meet the creators of those systems in person.

I especially enjoyed the demonstration part during which the Dwengo founder took his Android smartphone, established a Bluetooth connection with the little Bluetooth chip add-on on the Dwengo robot and started to control the robot remotely, simply by moving his Android phone in different directions and speeds.

Later we compared the visual programming language developed by the Dwengo team, Dwengo Blocks, with the Scratch programming environment from MIT. It was nice to see that different teams from different parts of the world is converging when it comes to helping kids to learn program: Visual, yet powerful and flexible programming languages, browser-based, no-installation-needed programming environments, the ability to see behind-the-scenes of the visual program and the ability to control physical objects that act upon the real world.

Phones these days...

Phones these days...

For me, one of the most important outcomes of this meeting is that things started to take shape and we are on our way to work on creating a short, one-day educational introduction to computational creativity and thinking, as well as robotics and electronics. Thanks to the energy and organizational experience of Stephan Janssen and substantial input from the experienced group members such as Tasha Carl (of sagan.be fame), it seems like the result is going to be more than exciting.

Our son, now almost 9 months old is still too young for learning programming but I consider these meetings and the collaboration to follow a wonderful and great opportunity to prepare myself for the next years. I’m sure when he grows up he’ll be facing different technologies than what is available today but it is comforting to know that the grand unifying themes of computational thinking do not change that fast, and hopefully by the time he can understand what I say, I’ll be a much better guide.

Programming for Kids – Robocup Junior 2012 @ Technopolis

1 Comment


Robocup Junior - Technopolis 2012

Robocup Junior - Technopolis 2012

Thanks to the members of Devoxx4Kids, I have recently learned about a very interesting event: Robocup Junior 2012. This year’s event is organized at Technopolis, so I decided to go there with my wife and 8 month old son today (well, it is never too early to start, right?).

I was really surprised by the number of children at the event. The robotics tournament took place at a hall and most of the kids were either rushing to place their various robots on different challenge tracks, or very concentrated and busy on their laptops, trying to do the last minute bug fixes.

From robots running for rescue missions, to the ones that solved Rubik’s cube, the event was full of excitement, hacking and creativity. I also had the chance to drop by the Dwengo stand to see their robotics kit, powered by the famous Dwengo board. All that is left to do now is to find out how I can introduce all of this robotics to my students who learn programming in Scratch.

Below you can watch a slideshow of photos from the event.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: