Dalkey CoderDojo: Swift Programming at Fitzpatrick Castle

After all the coding sessions we ran in and around town this autumn, we decided that a one-off CoderDojo session for the Dalkey Dojo would be worth running to see if we couldn’t interest a few new mentors to join and help us run future sessions.

Setting up the iPads
Setting up the iPads

I managed to borrow 15 beautiful 12.9″ iPad Pros off the folks at Apple and we booked a two hour session at the Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel, where we normally hold our sessions. But instead of an Arduino focus, which is the usual subject matter at the dojo, we were going to let the kids explore Swift and Swift Playgrounds:

The ninjas will be able to explore coding with Swift to a variety of ends. They can learn the fundamentals of coding, they will be able to use code to master drawing with simple commands, they can program a robot in a variety of ways, or they can play with augmented reality and code.
As far as material went, we used some of the new challenge cards Michael O’Kane developed, like the Titanic Journey Challenge, the Traffic Lights Challenge, and his cool Roald Dahl Challenge.
Our Swift Stations
In addition to those exercises, we had the new, just released Hour of Code Swift Playground to play with, the previous one, the Rock, Paper, Scissors playground (all of which you can get yourself when you add a new Swift Playground and go to the Challenges tab). We also had a couple Sphero SPRK+s, which were a huge hit with the kids (I only have two and had to implement a queue for the kids waiting somewhat patiently for the chance to play around with them). And then we had two playgrounds of my own making, the ARKit one with Max the fox, and my new Fundamentals of Programming Swift Playground.
All in all, it was a fun, programming-packed two and and half hours, even, if, by the last fifteen minutes or so we wound up with some programming fatigue and started getting creative in… other ways:
iPads, All the Way Down
iPads, All the Way Down

European Code Week, Part Two

So in addition to the hour of code at Harold Boys’ National School in Dalkey, I also ran an hour of code event down at Loreto Primary School in Dalkey.

Loreto Primary School

This one happened after the excellent DojoCon2017 in Warrington, and was the capper on a pretty code-heavy month.

There was a ton of parental support – 10 parents! – which is always great to see, but we also covered 2nd class through 6th, a total of 10 classrooms full of students. Since we did Minecraft with them last year, I wanted to have them work on something a little different. The school is equipped with Microsoft and Samsung tablets, so I had them go back to the code.org well and we did the Anna and Elsa Hour of Code challenge for everybody except the second class (who got to do Minecraft).

Due to other commitments (like DojoCon and the other Hour of Code session in town), we didn’t do a presentation like last year, but instead I demo’d Max the fox, from my ARKit playground, and nearly got trampled each and every time as all the kids ran up to first see the fox and then stand in front of the camera so that their friends could see Max standing on top of them.

The girls were amazing, as were the parent volunteers, and I really appreciate the willingness and eagerness of all the teachers I’ve run into in these last two years to try something new out in the classroom and engage with the technology themselves, all in the name of exposing the students to new avenues of learning.

European Code “Week”

European Code Week is this 7th of October through the 22nd (this is a week by European standards? In binary? I blame ex-Hurricane Ophelia for sending us time traveling so that we only actually got 7 days during that span of the calendar).

Ready to go at Harold Boys'
Ready to go at Harold Boys’

The boys at Harold Boys’ National School in Dalkey have already written up this event, but they ran through an Hour of Code with the basketball-building game at Codersters.com. I like Codesters Python editor because the boys were led down a path to writing Python code, with all of its idiosyncrasies, in a pretty gentle manner; the kids can drag and drop methods and variables from the library on the left before they’re ready to start typing, and Python’s indentation-based structure can be tough to pick up in the span of an hour. Last spring we had run an hour of code with the same boys with a block-based Pong-building game, so I was really hoping to get them thinking more about the text and able to affect things like the forces at work on the ball when they used the left and down arrow keys and the placement of objects on the 2D grid.

The session was a big step up from last year’s, though I was happy to hear quite a few “yes!”‘s and see a couple eureka moments for a couple kids.

If you’re looking to run your own Hour of Code with kids who’ve touched on the coordinate plane, a little tiny bit of physics (just to understand the terminology and why the ball might behave in a certain way), and a tiny bit of algebra, maybe, this is a good coding session to run. And even without that knowledge a quick sketch on the whiteboard of a grid with x and y coordinates (0,0 in the center for this lesson), another quick sketch to explain force in different directions and what that might do to an object, and then a last talk about variables being a bit like a box that can hold different things, an easy way to refer to something that might change will help the boys realize how some of the stuff they’re learning (or will learn) can help them write their own games or programs.

Next up for code week is a session with the girls down at Loreto in Dalkey!