Find Your Way With Moana In The Hour of Code

Last year, the Hour of Code Awakened with a Star Wars activity. The year before, kids were Frozen to their computers with coding and game development. In 2016, Disney has come to the party yet again; this time helping kids Wayfinding with code.

hour-of-code-moana

Right now I should be typing up a proposal for my spawnlings’ school, encouraging them to participate in Hour of Code this year. It doesn’t really matter what the school says; we’re doing it anyway. I just want to use the fancier computers at school with their internet connection, rather than my own.

It really shouldn’t be such a hassle—Hour of Code has been running for four years now, starting with a mere 70 public schools in the United States. Now they are international, with a plethora of activities available on their website: Star Wars, Frozen, Minecraft, Gumball, and much more.

This morning they announced this year’s big partnership with Disney’s Moana in Hour of Code: Wayfinding with Code.

Like Star Wars and Frozen in previous years, Wayfinding with Code is aimed at kids aged 8yo and up as an introduction to computer science. It’s available in multiple languages, is totally free online, and comes with a digital toolkit for parents/educators/organisers.

And yes, it is a big advertisement for the upcoming movie release. And I’m okay with that. I’m already in love with the movie. You don’t even have to ask about the kids.

Back to the coding! The activity itself is in the same “drag-and-drop” style popular with young budding coders. Students are asked to help move Moana and Maui across the sea, leading Moana’s people to new lands. The coding starts out with the basic commands, moving the boat in logic sequences.

moana-code

Just as the kids start to get the hang of the commands, Moana and Maui are ambushed by the adorable little Kakamora. This is where the coding takes on the next step in a dodgeball-style, and to be honest, it looks like the most fun!

kakamora

Hour of Code is happening all around the world, from December 5 to December 9, 2016. You don’t have to do it with a school. You can find someone near you already set up to go (search through the Hour of Code website). Or you can organise your own event at home with a couple of friends. All the information you need is available on the Hour of Code website, they even have a toolkit ready to go to help you along.

No matter which option you use, having fun with coding is always a win in my book. Now show me what you can do with an Hour of Code!

 

This post was originally published on GeekMom. EG Inc is participating in the Hour of Code, with a different coding activity every day this week. Share your project ideas in the comments!

What Jobs Can Minions Do Better Than Machines and Computers?

 

This post is part of a new series “If I Ran The People Zoo“, looking at the impact Artificial Intelligence will have on directly on our spawnlings and their future. 

We are in the midst of the next big sociological change: automation, and more specifically Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Better Than Computers

You could be forgiven for not knowing this. It wasn’t considered an issue in the recent Australian Federal Election, nor have we had a breeze of it in the US Election discussion. Nevermind a little thing like the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) 2016 report released recently. It only predicted 40% of Australia’s workforce would be replaced by automation within the next 10 to 20 years.

Let that sink in, because it is a key feature of this post – and in fact, this series.

40% of current jobs will probably not exist by the time our spawnlings are finishing school and looking for a job to provide a SALARY. To pay for their LIVING.

In regional areas, that number could be as high as 60%.

It’s important to note, we’re not talking loss of industry here. The work will still be there; it is just done by a robot rather than a human. You can’t jump in and say “We still need that group of workers!” because we will still have the work, just with fewer coffee breaks and toilet stops.

Makes you wonder what will be left for our spawnlings.

So let’s start with a process of elimination. The easy target is the manufacturing industry. Factory work. Dock workers. Any routine repetitive task that can be easily programmed.

Next obvious target is the mining industry: Already done. There are mines in the Pilbara region in Western Australia, entirely automated; from the hard labour roles through to ‘driverless trucks’. Ironically, for every time you hear a regional politician propose faster trains across Australia, another driverless battery-powered truck is being tested on the long haul routes.

IronOre

Photo from Public Domain

 

Think it is just the manual/physical jobs at risk? Think again. Remember – we are initially looking at any role that is routine. Repetitive. Easily programmed.

Start thinking about the ‘safe’ jobs those Tiger Mums are pushing for their precious miracles: Accountants. Real Estate Agents. Lawyers. And yes, teachers.  The ‘area of risk’ has now expanded from the lower and base level to middle level of employment.

From personal experience, I completely believe the risk to lawyers. The paper pushing in most litigation is very ‘routine’. There are already programs out there, able to do the data collating role of a paralegal across multiple documents – at more than thrice the speed, and half the cost. Again, the legal profession will always be here; just less emotional.

It is no longer simply a question of what jobs will be left for our spawnlings. It is more a question of which jobs can our spawnlings do better than machines and computers?

But hark! What do I hear from the Conservatives, unwilling (or unable) to see the path of the future? It is the chant of ignorance, a chant brought forth from the Industrial Revolution: ‘loss of traditional role = creation of new job’.

Nope. Nope, nope, nope. There are not enough new jobs being created to equal the same amount of roles being replaced by robots. We’re not talking a simple equation like one machine equals one person. We’re talking one machine equals hundreds.

Of course, the easy Band-Aid solution is to just teach the next generation how to be the programmers. But be honest – How many colleagues do you know have the natural ability to excel in tech-based work, at the level needed to gain these jobs in the future?

Remember: your spawnlings’ competition is no longer the kid sitting next to them at school; it is the other 750 million kids in the region – all learning coding at the same time, and all brought together in a global market across the interwebs. Technology is overcoming geography in so many ways. For example, EG Dad leads a team of people across Australia, UK, and the US, because those are the locations of the people with the best skills. I contribute to an international news service (GeekDad/GeekMom) along with other writers from the UK, NZ, UAE, UK, and so many others I lose track of them in the social chat!

Robot-BarristaRight now, right this minute, the best employment options are in the service industry. We’re talking about the high demand for our basic needs. Aged care providers for our ageing population; baristas for our morning motivation; nail technicians for the beauty pick-me-up before the rise of the robots… Oh wait, we already have robots in McDonald’s in the US, as well as other food outlets around the world. Scratch another off your future jobs list.

The common theme across these examples: an increase in casual, part-time, and fragile jobs. And this is already happening right now.

Sure, this isn’t always a bad thing. Some people are genuinely looking for part-time work; be it work/life balance or personal interests, or whatnot. But not everyone is. And with 2/3 of all new jobs advertised in Australia being part-time, fewer people are having a say in this.

On top of that, our spawnlings will also be competing with the robots for the jobs. The cost of technology is far easier to justify than the cost of human resources. Every company is trying to ensure they maintain their bottom line, so why not take the cheaper option?

Did you hear about the AI robot and his plans to keep his human creators in a People Zoo? That people zoo doesn’t seem so fantastical now, does it?

Where do we need the jobs in the future? Health care, science, innovation, entertainment. And yeah, I still reckon we need some human interaction in our education system. These are the jobs I see as needing a human element involved. The jobs where there just might be a competitive edge in favour of the spawnlings.

My next post in this series looks at the skills our spawnlings will need to compete with technology in the future. Are the schools of today really prepared for the skills they need tomorrow? Do all schools have the resources to teach the next generation, or will we end up with an even greater class/education divide? And if there are fewer jobs generally (and more competition), who will do it cheapest?

And don’t think you’re off the hook – we’re going to look at what EG Parents are doing to give their spawnlings the competitive edge. All bragging is encouraged in the comments below, or in our Facebook discussion.

#ifiranthepeoplezoo

 

Hour of Code 2015: Minecraft

Hour of Code has started this week.

If you need a refresher on what Hour of Code is:

The Hour of Code is a global movement reaching tens of millions of students in 180+ countries. Anyone, anywhere can organize an Hour of Code event. One-hour tutorials are available in over 40 languages. No experience needed. Ages 4 to 104.

– Hour of Code

It is a great opportunity for anyone to gain a taste of coding. On the Hour of Code website alone, there are three (3) tutorials on the front page, followed by a bunch of opportunities to take your coding beyond the ‘hour’.

Continue reading

Coding Kids are Computer Gods

You’ve heard the saying. In fact, you may have even said it yourself:

“We live in a technological age.”

Well, you’re wrong. So unbelievably wrong.

We don’t live in a technological age – sure there is plenty of technological stuff happening around here, but the level of resistance amongst general minions is overwhelming.

In fact, most minions don’t like technology. Most don’t even like science. Heathens.

However, if there is money in it – oh yeah, we’re all for that. Pay someone else to create the convenience for us.

Unfortunately, it is starting to reflect in our school systems as well. A recent study by the Australian National Assessment Program (NAP) compared computer skills of students from 2010 to students from 2014. They discovered the average computer technology literacy of students in both year levels had dropped. Significantly.

Curious to know the skills they tested? Year 6 students were asked to search for information on a website, format a document, crop an image, and create a slideshow.

Year 10 students designed an online survey, used software to add new levels to an online game, and created an animated video.

Now, of course, there are pockets of computing genius all around the world, so you need to remember this report shows the average. Some schools are pretty awesome – encouraging their students to use tablets and computers wherever possible. Every now and then you find a teacher who has included web development as part of the Year 4 HSIE assessment (remember: it does not have to be separate from the usual class topics; computer skills should be part of the bigger picture).

But you would also be justified in wondering why the hell computer skills are so dependent on the interest of the teacher and not the damn curriculum?!?

For example, Hour of Code is coming up (check out my contribution over at GeekMom for some details). Of course, I asked our school if they were participating – thinking, ‘Hey, it’s end of year and reports are already done. It’s not like it would be interrupting anything, besides teachers moving rooms.’

Apparently yes, it would be interrupting (what exactly, was never clarified for me) and no, they are not interested in a free and readily available resource to introduce coding to our spawnlings. It is not part of the set curriculum so it depends on whether the teacher is interested or not.

So what’s a poor geeky family to do amongst all this digitized doom and gloom?

Climb up on the backs of those lowly minions and rise above them all!

From what I can gather, you have two options. Choose wisely, young minion.

  1. Outsource it

No, you do not have to send your little spawnling to some off-site call centre (no matter how enticing that may sound…)

There are many organisations, both private run and non-profit, offering after school coding workshops.

I recently talked with Nicola O’Brien, owner of Code Rangers (Sydney-based). The reason I singled her out is because one of Sinister’s school mates goes to Code Rangers after school and raves about it. He thinks it is awesome to be coding his own games in Scratch, talking about Robotics, and even looking at a bit of App design.

Code Ranger 01

Photo courtesy of Code Rangers

Code Rangers is fairly new in the scheme of things – started in late 2014, but is now running classes across the city of Sydney. Apparently, many potential EG parents are aware of the discrepancy in computer skills in the schools. Instead of fighting the schools, they opt for workshops like Code Rangers to fill the gaps. And business is good.

Here’s the good stuff – The ratio boy:girl is about 60:40, and there is no “special focus” for girls or ‘pretty pink keyboards’ and the like. The workshops are very matter-of-fact about presenting computer skills as they are to everybody. In fact, they recently had a team of four (4) girls make it through to the finals in the Australian Search for the Next Tech Girl Superhero comp.

 

Code Ranger 02

Photo courtesy of Code Rangers

Oh frack, that sounds so kitschy. But it was a really good program teaching the girls the many steps it takes to build an app (and not just coding). Next year, they are looking at more programs for all the spawnlings: like the Australian National STEM Video Game Challenge. But more on that another day.

The thing I like about Code Rangers is their workshop style, rather than basic tutorial style. They use programs like Scratch and Python, with a bit of HTML CSS and Javascript when the need arises. Yes, when it arises – because they run their workshops with the initiative of the kids. They look at what the kids want to work on as part of their projects and run with the inspiration from there. Less ‘working’; More ‘supervising’. A sandbox style of learning.

Code Ranger 05

Photo courtesy of Code Rangers

If you want to have a taste of Code Rangers, check out their Open Workshops in Chatswood as part of Hour of Code. Not in Sydney? Check out the Hour of Code registrations list on their website. It will show you any of the schools and private organisations participating in Hour of Code anywhere in the world.

  1. Teach the kids yourself

Don’t have anyone in your area. Then DIY, minion!!

If you have totally rad computer skills, go for it.

If you have rudimentary computer skills, you can probably still get away with some basics. Start with Hour of Code, and some Scratch. Learn with your spawnling. Show them self-directed learning and they will be ahead of you in no time. Hour of Code has both Star Wars and Minecraft tutorials this year. Check them both.

 

HOC_Student_Progress_Screen_Shot_coding_level_Solution_11-09-15

Image courtesy of Disney Interactive

I recently spoke to one minion who homeschools her kids, and includes a lot of computer based learning. Nicci’s two kids started to learn code and animation this year and love it. They started with Scratch, adding Hopscotch and Mindstorms as they progressed. The kids are 7 and 11, but already they are showing strong interest in robotics and game development. They’re not too bad with the videos either.

So what does Nicci think about all of this? She loves how the kids think they are just playing games, like Minecraft, and yet they are developing some amazing basic coding skills. Skills that open up whole new levels of communication in our digital world.  How’s that for EG Parenting?

So where does this leave us? Well, to be honest, you need to go away and do some research. Yes, YOU. I’m not doing everything for you, remember you’re the minion. I’m just sowing the seed of curiosity in your mind – a very evil thing to do, but what did you think this was? The Rainbows and Unicorns Fan Club?

 

Batman unicorn

Image by Rosewine / Available for purchase on Etsy

Seriously though, you need to decide to what extent your spawnlings are interested. And let’s face it – they need to know some basic computer skills. Be honest about your own capabilities, and then source out some fantastic support programs online. Check out Scratch, Minecraft, and Hour of Code.

Over the next couple of weeks, I am going to post more stuff about resources available for kids to learn coding in their own time. I’m also going to outline all the elements of coding and program development – you do realise that it is not just coding a shoot-em-up game, right? There are a whole heap of different styles and elements to consider when asking if your spawnling is interested in computer technology. It might be art. It might be fashion. It might be comparative mythology. That’s why we need to focus more on STEAM and not just STEM.

We do not live in a technological age – we have a small minority focused on the progress of technology. But the majority are still too busy shifting off the responsibility to others; be it through laziness or fear of the unknown. If we, as a society, want to rely on the convenience of technology we cannot continue to rely on others to design and develop it for us.

As evil genius parents, we need to encourage our spawnlings to take us out of the Commercial Age of Convenience and in to the Technological Age of which we all dream. One day, robots are going to rise up and take over the world from the piddly little minions. And when that happens, it will be the spawnlings who can design and build the technology who will be Leaders. Gods.

They will be Evil Genius.