Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Computational Thinking, Programming…and the Google App Inventor – SmartBean

What were Papert’s views on children, computers and "powerful ideas”? Are they relevant today? Why should we introduce our kids to programming and how? Find out all the answers to these and more in this article - Computational Thinking, Programming…and the Google App Inventor that I recently co-authored with Charles Profitt, leader of the NY State Ubuntu Local Community.

(Incidentally my older son was at the Googleplex in Mountain View recently for a 3-week "Computational and Programming Experience" camp for 14-year olds that is designed with similar goals in mind..)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Of iPhones, iPod Touches, Games and Mobile "Casual" Learning

With fresh inspiration from a course I just finished here at Stanford on "Casual Learning Technologies for the iPhone" in which we designed casual apps for kids and adults, I've authored a 2-part article for Smartbean. The first is a brief discussion of research on the power of learning through games (including Gee's principles on "good learning" with well-designed games) - Of iPhone Apps for Kids and Learning Through Gaming – I,
and the second part is a fairly exhaustive list of some of the best iPhone apps for kids (ages 3 - 13) categorized by subject (art, math, science, languages, puzzles, and such) - Of iPhone Apps for Kids and Learning through Gaming – II

Back to my Stanford course on iPhone Apps for casual learning... I partnered with a couple of grad students to design and program an app to teach boolean logic while playing a fun robot shooter game; the only difference being that that our "guns" were logic gates, and the bit that the player had to shoot based on 2 random 1/0 input bits was the bit that matched the "rogue bot" moving towards the gate "gun". The idea was to select the right logic gate, to shoot the right bit, and get the bot before it got you.

The motivation for this app was the big push for STEM by the Obama administration and the belief that “computational reasoning is the core of all modern Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines and is intrinsic to all other disciplines; it is a fundamental skill for everybody, not just for computer scientists. To reading, writing, and arithmetic, we should add computational thinking to every child's analytical ability.” (Jeannette Wing, Head of the Computer & Information Science and Engineering Directorate at National Science Foundation) So in a sense our app could be described as "STEM meets James Paul Gee." :)

The course was a pleasant deviation from my usual courses here at Stanford. I enjoyed programming the app, and the 2 guys from Apple who taught us to program for the iPhone were awesome! It was my most enjoyable course thus far; and the fact that the app received such positive feedback was just icing on the cake :) Here are some screenshots of the app and people playing with it...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sparking Innovation…The Wallace & Gromit Way - SmartBean

Remember Wallace and Gromit in ‘A Grand Day Out’, and ‘The Curse of the Were Rabbit’, and Wallace’s ingenious gizmos that were so fascinating to watch? Those zany inventions became so popular with fans of W&G that creator Nick Park actually followed up his early movies with Cracking Contraptions – a series of ten Wallace and Gromit stop motion animations in which each episode featured one of Wallace’s new inventions and Gromit’s skeptical reaction to it. These “cracking contraptions” are as much a part of Nick Park’s valuable contributions to the world of clay animation (”claymation”) as the beloved man and dog duo and their adventures.

To read how parents and educators can inspire kids to be inventors and creative innovators, read the rest of the article at SmartBean.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Thirsty? Reach For The Tap

Thirsty? Reach For The Tap – SmartBean

That’s the message – loud and clear – in The Story of Bottled Water released today, March 22, 2010, which also happens to be World Water Day.
(Watch this amazing video on SmartBean)