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Fixing the Pain of Programming

the agent man Don't just be reactive, compute the future (294 comments)

In live programming an attempt is made to reduce the time between a program change and the ability to wittness consequences of this change. In the good old days, with punched cards, this was not a pretty picture as it could take a long time to get to that point. With Conversational Programming, which is a special kind of live programming, we try to go one step further and compute of the program you are writing. A simple version of Conversational Programming has been added to AgentCubes online. You can play with this as part of one of the hour of code tutorials:

about 2 months ago
top Stats: 507MM LOC, 6.8MM Kids, 2K YouTube Views

the agent man Re:YouTube is blocked (123 comments)

how about trying the University of Colorado Hour of Code activity instead to allowing them to create any program and not just a fill in the blank coding exercise?

about 7 months ago

Excite Kids To Code By Focusing Less On Coding

the agent man Re:Since when... (207 comments)

Perhaps, before you make these kinds of statements, you should actually look at the research of the University of Colorado including studies showing that kids can leverage the MEASURABLE skills they got from game design to science simulation building.

about 8 months ago

Could IBM's Watson Put Google In Jeopardy?

the agent man If Watson is so smart then... (274 comments)

... should it not be able to answer that question itself?

about 10 months ago

How Early Should Kids Learn To Code?

the agent man Re:Logo is very easy (299 comments)

There is quite a body of literature suggesting that Logo is not that easy. More importantly, however, we can show that, with the right combination of tools (e.g., AgentSheet and AgentCubes), curricula (e.g., Scalable Game Design) and pedagogy, teachers with 0 CS background can trained to teach kids programming as early as first grade. Here is an example of a 4th grade class:

about 10 months ago

How Early Should Kids Learn To Code?

the agent man Programming versus Foreign Language: Clarification (299 comments)

I just like to clarify that the trade off between programming and natural languages (or music) suggested by the title of the WIRED article does NOT reflect the goals of the Scalable Game Design curriculum discussed in the article. In fact, we have many language arts and foreign language teachers participate in the Scalable Game Design project. They find that the idea of game design is a great way to 1) motivate language arts (e.g., the notion of nouns, verbs etc. as design tools for object-oriented programming) and to 2) employ the idea of game design as a cultural bridge used in foreign language learning.

Here is link to some videos showing teachers and students including a video on how to use game design in Spanish classes:

Full disclosure: I am directing the Scalable Game Design project

about 10 months ago

How Early Should Kids Learn To Code?

the agent man Re:That's fairly easy (299 comments)

Of course there is no point in coercing people into things that they do not want to do. The problem with CS is that, particularly with girls, it has a strong negative perception, e.g., "programming is hard and boring". Our data suggest, however, when introduced to CS in a certain way (with the right tools, curriculum and pedagogy) a very large percentage of students (boys and girls) changes their minds. The strategy is to expose them once in very compelling way. If they don't like it - no problem.

about 10 months ago

How Early Should Kids Learn To Code?

the agent man Re:That's fairly easy (299 comments)

The challenge is to find the right kind of toy that is gender neutral but also to use a certain pedagogy, such as inquiry based approaches, which can have a big influence on broadening participation.

about 10 months ago

How Early Should Kids Learn To Code?

the agent man Re:That's fairly easy (299 comments)

No, that does not work. The Scalable Game Design project - discussed in the article - is specifically addressing the problem of broadening participation, e.g., the lack of interest in CS by girls. In other words, the lack of interest is precisely the problem. Our research (with over 10,000 students from all around the USA) suggests that MOST students, boys and girls, CAN be interested in CS through games and can advance from games from STEM simulations. Also, Scalable Game Design is a curriculum, not an afterschool program, that has been integrated into middle schools and even some elementary schools. The key is to 1) find time in existing curriculum to get started (e.g., in keyboarding and powerpointing types of courses) and to 2) transition to relevant STEM topics by teaching kids how to create science simulations. This is part of the new Next Generation Science Standards.

about 10 months ago

Study Shows Professors With Tenure Are Worse Teachers

the agent man Occam's razor (273 comments)

how about an even simpler explanation: tenured faculty tend NOT to teach introductory courses. If they do then typically they have to because there is nobody else willing or capable. The result: a less than completely excited teacher.

about a year ago

Google Releases Raspberry Pi Web Dev Teaching Tool

the agent man Re:pi (68 comments)

This makes NO sense for kids in classrooms. Without the ability to run silly but required pieces of software (including the new US testing SW) and Wifi students would need a Raspberry Pi IN ADDITION to some Mac or PC. Quite simply, this is not going to happen because it would mean schools would have to spend more without getting more.

about a year ago

PCWorld Magazine Is No More

the agent man Re:No worries (164 comments)

or how about "Post-PCWorld" ?

1 year,19 days

Silicon Valley In 2013 Resembles Logan's Run In 2274

the agent man does NOT resemble (slight Math problem) (432 comments)

The Loga's Run world, with a maximum age of 30, would represent of median age of 15. Compared to Silicon Valley, with a median age of about 30, this would be half. Does not compute. Conclusion: Silicon Valley in 2013 DOES NOT Resemble Logan's Run In 2274

1 year,23 days

Who Will Teach U.S. Kids To Code? Rupert Murdoch

the agent man Re:Let them teach themselves. (138 comments)

No, lets not because this turns out to be a bad idea and we have data for this. The self teaching route reaches only an incredibly small percentage of kids. More importantly, our data suggests that we can and SHOULD expose kids to computational thinking/CS/Programming at school as early as elementary school level because they actually enjoy it and it helps them with other school topics. By doing so we find that many students, particularly girls and underrepresented students, will get interested in the topic but without the "forced" school exposure they would have never considered exploring this topics by themselves. In many cases we find that not only are they getting interested in CS but actually open up more generally to school. Some of that data here:

1 year,25 days

What Features Does iOS 7 Need?

the agent man enable WebGL in the browser (262 comments)

it is about time to enable WebGL in the browser. WebGL runs fine in Safari on Macs and iOS Safari but is currently only enabled in mobile safari for iAds. In other words, it does work but is only enabled for the kinds of things that I need the least, i.e., ads.

about a year ago

Ask Slashdot: How Can I Make a Computer Science Club Interesting?

the agent man help them building 3D games (265 comments)

We have been helping running computer clubs for about 20 years and have documented the things that work and don't. Creativity and ownership are key. Simply hacking Java code will go nowhere. Have them build games where they can also build their own 2D/3D artwork. Use tools like AgentSheets and AgentCubes that include powerful 2D/23D authoring and end-user debugging tools to motivate them and help with the programming. Otherwise, as you already see, you will quickly loose your audience.

Here is some research data:

AgentCubes in action:

Better Idea: Forget computer clubs! If your goal is to expose students to computer science then the computer club idea goes nowhere. This is not an opinion. We have the data. You will get few girls, rarely any minority students and the overall percentage of students participating is dismal. Try the Scalable Game Design curriculum You can have your teachers do this and expose nearly 100% of the students at just about any middle schools or high school. With this strategy we get ~300 students per school and year instead of the ~15 computer club ones.

about a year ago

Localized (Visual) Programming Language For Kids?

the agent man localized lessons and 3D creativity (AgentSheets) (185 comments)

One can argue about the value of localized languages. For instance the localization of Pascal as educational programming language into German and French turned out to be a big flop. Of course GUI components of some IDE probably need to be localized. AgentSheets is localizable and has been localized in a number of languages but not Dutch. Even more important is the localization of tutorials. You can find some here:

There is a mix of native localization (good) and Google translated ones (not so good).

The other point is that perhaps your daughter just is not excited about the making simple 2D animations and would like to make complete 3D games including 3D characters that she can create? You may want to give AgentCubes a chance:

This runs as desktop application or in browsers via HTML5 (no Flash no Java) site even on cheap $200 Chromebooks.

about a year ago

'CodeSpells' Video Game Teaches Children Java Programming

the agent man LEGO Star Wars versus LEGO (245 comments)

A big point was made about creativity and the passion of experienced programmers. Then 40 students were recruited (how?) for an experimental study and given one hour to poke around in Java code. I don't quite see how the observations made can be interpreted as compelling evidence for the conclusions reached. Where exactly was the creativity? The game seems more like LEGO Star Wars, as opposed to just regular LEGO, with all the pieces are given. Could they make their own characters from scratch? It did not seem so.

about a year ago

Film Critic Roger Ebert Dead at 70 Of Cancer

the agent man USA = World? (198 comments)

This idea that USA = World is really getting old. Yes, he was a great guy. I am sad he is gone but "arguably the world's most famous film critic"! What does that even mean? In how many of the 200 countries was he known? Are you following the international scene of film critics really closely and keeping score? Would it be really horrible to just say something like "arguably the USA's most famous film critic"

about a year ago



Getting more girls interested in programming

the agent man the agent man writes  |  about 4 months ago

the agent man (784483) writes "A Colorado Public Radio/NPR piece describes a group of computer scientists and educators from the University of Colorado (CU) at Boulder exploring what it takes to get more girls interested in computer science. In spite of many educational efforts the participation of women in computing jobs is still low. The strategy explored by the Scalable Game Design project is to bring a game design based approach into the classroom by training teachers. The CU team's work to get girls interested in computer science is part of a large scale, long-term project to increase engagement among all underserved populations such as low income students, minorities and rural communities. Interestingly, the key to get more girls excited about computer science is not only to come up with more creative "projects" than, say, computing prime numbers, but to have teachers employ pedagogies so that the teacher and the students explore and solve the problems of creating a game together. The project has brought Scalable Game Design to schools across Colorado, as well as internationally and is collecting student-created games in an online arcade."
Link to Original Source

Excite kids to code by focusing less on coding

the agent man the agent man writes  |  about 8 months ago

the agent man (784483) writes "The Hour of Code event taking place December 9-15 has produced a number of tutorials with the goal to excite 10 millions kids to code. It is really interesting to contrast the different pedagogical approaches behind the roughly 30 tutorials. The University of Colorado, Make a 3D Game, Tutorial wants to excite kids to code by focusing less on coding. This pedagogy is based on the idea that coding alone, without non-coding creativity, has a hard time to attract computer science skeptics including a high percentage of girls who think that "programming is hard and boring." Instead, the Make a 3D Game activity has the kids create sharable 3D shapes and 3D worlds in their browsers which then they really want to bring to live — through coding. There is evidence that this strategy works. The article talks about the research exploring how kids get not only excited through game design but that they can later leverage coding skills acquired to make science simulations. Try the activity by yourself or with your kids."
Link to Original Source

Teach Our Kids to Code

the agent man the agent man writes  |  about 10 months ago

the agent man (784483) writes "WIRED Magazine is exploring how early kids should learn to code. One of the challenges is to find the proper time in schools to teach programming. Are teachers at elementary and middle school levels really able to teach this subject? The article suggests that even very young kids can learn to program and list a couple of early experiments as well as more established ideas including the Scalable Game Design curriculum. However, the article also suggests that programming may have to come at the cost of Foreign language learning and music. Judging by the comments this idea is not so well received."
Link to Original Source

The Sustainability of CS Education Through Game Design

the agent man the agent man writes  |  about a year ago

the agent man (784483) writes "Researchers at the University of Colorado have been running the worlds largest study exploring how to integrate computer science education through game design in public schools. Over 10,000 students (45% women) from some of the most diverse, most isolated, toughest and poorest schools in the USA participated in making games and STEM simulations. The researchers have developed a strategy to reach an extraordinarily high percentage of students by making game design based computer science education part of existing “computing” middle school courses. Sadly these courses typically focus on rather boring topics such as keyboarding and gaining Microsoft Office skills. Instead of just exposing a handful of self-selected students in after school programs the curriculum called Scalable Game Design exposes a large number of students (in some middle schools 350 students per year, per school) to computer science. The focus of the paper presented at the 2013 SIGCSE conference and part of the National Science Foundation showcase is the exploration of sustainability. If federal grants are used to train and support teachers, how likely will it be for schools participating in the research to continue or even move beyond the goals of the training once the support stops? How many of the schools start with game design and later manage to transfer these skills to STEM simulation creation? The data collected over a period of four years and with more than 10,000 games and simulations produced by students suggests that 81% of schools have advanced beyond the basic requirement. That is, teachers and students have created more, and in most cases more advanced, games and simulations than they were trained to do. Researchers also analyzed motivational and skill data to investigate interaction between pedagogy and motivation relevant to broadening participation and to look for evidence of transfer between game design and science simulation creation. Scalable Game Design is based on the AgentSheets and AgentCubes game design and simulation creation tools."

Build Video Games and Simulations, Learn Science

the agent man the agent man writes  |  about 2 years ago

the agent man writes "A number of schools use video game design as motivational approach to get students interested in computer science and programming. This school is starting with video game design as well but moves on to have students build science simulations. [article: video: Research exploring the broadening of participation in computer science education has been suggesting this approach for some time: Moreover, data from over 10,000 games and simulations analyzed appears to suggest that game design is more than just a motivational activity. Students picking up computational thinking concepts gained from making games can apply them to science simulation building. In other words, game design in schools can actually be a useful educational skill."
Link to Original Source

Programing now starting in Elementary Schools

the agent man the agent man writes  |  more than 2 years ago

the agent man writes "The idea of getting kids interested in programming in spite of their common perception of programming to be "hard and boring" is an ongoing Slashdot discussion. With support of the National Science Foundation the Scalable Game Design project has explored how to bring computer science education into the curriculum of middle and high schools for some time. The results are overwhelmingly positive suggesting that game design is not only highly motivational across gender and ethnicity but even finding new ways of tracking programing skills transferring from game design to STEM simulation building. This NPR story highlights an early and unplanned foray into brining game design based computer science education even to Elementary Schools. A short story includes a nice video of students sharing their experiences."
Link to Original Source

Programming is Heading Back to School

the agent man the agent man writes  |  more than 3 years ago

the agent man writes "Researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder are exploring what it takes to systematically get programming back to public schools. They have created a game design based curriculum, called Scalable Game Design, using the AgentSheets computational thinking tool. Annual summer institutes train middle schools teachers from from around the USA to teach their students computational thinking through game design and computational science simulations.

What is truly unique about this is that it is not an after-school program; it takes place during regular school courses. Entire school districts are participating with measurable impacts, increasing the participation of women in high school CS courses from 2% six years ago to 38-59% now. The project explores new computing education pedagogies with thousands of students in diverse areas including inner city, remote rural and Native American communities. About 45% of our participants so far are female; 56% are non-white students and most of them want to continue. Educators are interested not only in the motivational impact, but also the acquisition of useful 21st Century skills. They would like to be able to ask students “Now that you can make Space Invaders, can you also make a science simulation?” To explore this difficult question of transfer, the researchers devised new mechanisms to compute computational thinking. They analyze every game submitted by students to extract computational thinking patterns and to see if students can transfer these skills to creating science simulations.

More information about Scalable Game Design can be found in their project site:"

Link to Original Source


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