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!

Beat The Computers: Be Human

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

 

So the last post in this series was a bit of doom and gloom. I pretty much said your spawnlings are going to be in the People Zoo for the Masters of the Robots: Either as exhibits, or serving coffee, or managing the elderly, or if they are really lucky – nail technicians.

I’m just a positive ray of Unicorn faeces.

Look, I’m not trying to be the naysayer of the future. Remember: I live here too! I love technology and opportunity and all the other sweet treats that feed my burning desire to take over the world and re-model it in a GREATER geeky fashion.

But I am thinking long and hard about the education of our spawnlings, and their entire generation. Because that’s what we should be thinking about if we truly want to prepare them for an ever-changing future.

Australia recently had its Federal Election, and this whole topic wasn’t mentioned. The United Kingdom had their own Brexit issues recently (still ongoing, I think) and again – no discussion about visions for the future employment and education. Well, at least not beyond “Don’t let the foreigners take your job”… I suppose automation and Artificial Intelligence could be considered foreign to most… Nope, still don’t think it registered on the UK political radar.

The United States is amping up to their election in November. No mention of future jobs and skill preparation. Has anyone heard anything from the Japanese elections?

The only people talking about it appear to be scientists (like Prof. Brian Cox) and a bunch of coding clubs like Code Rangers and Code Club Australia.

Don’t get me wrong. Coding clubs are pretty awesome. Teaching our kids how to code and program is becoming more and more like an essential life-skill. With technology stepping into every element of our lives, even our own generation should know the basics of computers. But let’s be honest – not every kid is going to be a programmer. And the competition in this particular field is becoming tighter every year.
It is, however, a Band-Aid solution. A quick-fix. It is catering to a small number of kids who might perform well in this small area, without addressing the majority of kids who will not be working directly in IT.

So what skills can we teach the spawnlings so they can beat the computers?

We’re talking creativity. We’re talking emotional intelligence. We’re talking the ability to correlate two distinctly different disciplines who can both contribute to a solution. None of these are directly addressed within the usual set curriculum at your standard school. You are at the mercy of the teacher.

At least one school has the right idea: Check out the Australian Science & Mathematics School in South Australia. It is a school aimed at senior students (years 10 – 12), with a really strong STEM focus. However, the subjects are allowed to mix together, reflecting real-world problem solving by working across multiple disciplines.

This is a school which recognises the need for enterprising skills; basic knowledge that will transfer directly to the real world. They even have the equivalent of a Science Fair: group assessment to come up with a product, develop it as a complete design, and then market it at the fair. The school brings in genuine business mentors to review the products, and possibly even offer some business advice to make it happen. Last year, two projects were considered totally marketable as billion dollar businesses. From a Science Fair. At a High School.

The thing is, it’s not just the STEM aspect that is being pushed here. There are a whole heap of ‘human skills’ being nurtured. Our education system cannot continue pushing “English and Maths” as the only subjects of importance, with a little computer stuff on the side to show how futuristic we are. It needs to encourage our humanity!

You want to beat the computers? Be everything that is GREAT about being a human.

For example: Improv. I cannot rave about Improv enough. I’m telling you, improvisation skills are the first key step in our spawnlings future. I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again – Improv builds resilience and creative thinking. It encourages spawnlings to not be afraid of the unknown. Instead, improv encourages them to embrace it. To say YES and see where it takes them.When I wrote about Improv previously, I introduced you to the awesome Stony Brook University (US). They have the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, and offer a grad course on improv to help fresh scientists express their ideas without sounding like a text book.

Now, imagine a school that combines both ASMS and the Alan Alda Centre…

THAT’S the school I would send our spawnlings too! The kind of school that blends disciplines within a STEM focused environment. The kind of school which encourages thinking across multiple fields to find the solution.

When I think of THAT kind of school, I remember a study years back—tracking the migration of whale sharks. Seems like fairly standard marine biology research. And yet, when they hit a snag with how to track whales through markings on the skin, the researchers turned to … Astronomers? You bet! They used the same algorithms from the Hubble telescope for starscape surveys to track individually marked whales. Creative alternative human thinking.


That’s the advantage our spawnlings will have over computers.

Next post in this series, I’ll look at the impact of future AI on the humanities. Yeah, I wasn’t sure about that combination either, but cross-discipline development is the way of the future!!

And if you know of schools like ASMS, share them in the comments. 

 

Sydney Writer’s Festival

Sinister’s school class had an excursion yesterday. All the way over to the Sydney Writer’s Festival.

His teacher was rather considerate and even gave us a list of writers appearing on the day, including Liz Pichon.

For those minions who do not have pre-teen spawnlings reading and doodling all over the notebooks, Liz Pichon is the author of the infamous Tom Gates series.


Tom Gates is your average year-5 spawnling, just surviving every day by regularly escaping through his daydreams and doodles. According to Sinister, it’s pretty spot on with the inner dialogue, and the presentation within the book is unique and refreshing. 

He’s not the only one who thinks so – Liz Pichon was very popular at the Festival; boys and girls alike.

The Sydney Writers Festival is an awesome opportunity for writers to share their insights, and for readers to support the greater literary community.
For kids, they learn about some basic creativity skills – and get a day out of school grounds too. 

It was good thing the teachers gave us a heads-up about attending guests; gave me extra time to ensure Sinister had his book ready to be signed.


Of course, now he has devoured that book again, we need to work our way through the current family stack again.


I don’t think we’ll be obtaining any more autographs just it… Unless Mr Riordan is up for some travel?
The Sydney Writers Festival ends this Sunday with a huge kid-friendly event: Glowtopia. It’s held at the Bangarra end of the Rocks, filling up the entire length of Pier 4/5 with artists, music, authors, storytelling and roaming book characters to find (Hello, Waldo…) 

Fun starts around 10am. Liz Pichon will be there around 1.30pm, along with many others. Check the website for more. 


Sinister Cleans Up – DIY Terrarium

Sinister is starting off his school year by creating his own world to command and conquer.

I like this teacher already.

Sinister is in Year 5 OC (Opportunity Class – like a Gifted program in the public school system). In Science they are studying Space – Significant astronomers; Creation of the Golden Record; How to Survive in Alien Environments (biospheres).

As part of his assignment, Sinister has chosen to develop his own terrarium, focussing on the creation of a self-sustaining environment.

It’s a huge project but he is already noticing how to break it up into smaller scientific components.

For example: we bought a demijohn glass jar on eBay for $20 to house his terrarium (with cork plug). However, it needed a clean.

After a bit of research, Sinister came up with the following:

Hypothesis: That we can clean the demijohn with vinegar and uncooked rice; that the vinegar would wash and disinfect the jar without leaving a heavy chemical residue; that the rice would lightly scrub the jar without scratching.

Method:

  1. Pour about a litre of plain white vinegar into the large demijohn.  
  2. Add about a cup of uncooked rice  
  3. Put in the cork and shake it like a Polaroid picture… Well, make sure you use two hands; it’s heavy!!
  4. Empty out the vinegar and rice
  5. Rinse out with copious amounts of water.

Results:

  

Damn thing pretty much glistens. This mini-experiment produced the exact results he was looking for.
Next week: Sinister figures out how to fill and build the soil layers for his terrarium. That’s a tight neck there on the demijohn … But he has a plan!

Forensic Fridays: The Spawnlings Are Taking Over

I know, I know.

Forensic Fridays took a weeeeeee holiday of late.

However, they are starting up again. And mostly because of Sinister (now 9yo).

We have returned to school (in fact, we are Week 3, I think), and already the EG-spawnling has received a rather hefty assignment (more on his education at a later date).

A lot of his assignments have experiments or ‘project’ elements to them. For example, the first one he will share is to build his own terrarium based on the concept of a biosphere.

Sinister is not the only one in full-on project mode. Nefarious has his own obsession happening: He wants to build a Lego Empire State Building. We’re not talking some little bunch of bricks in the shape of the Empire State Building either.

We’re talking research the dimensions of the Empire State Building; calculate the ratio to a workable size with Lego; calculate the number of Lego pieces required; understand the structural support required with the size; etc, etc.

And yes. We will share that one too.

So Forensic Fridays are about to start up again, in a full intensive manner – as becoming of EG Inc.

I love my little spawnlings, but they keep me on my toes.

There are going to be some new sub-headings with the Forensic Fridays for the spawnlings to share. Starting with Sinister tomorrow.

 

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