Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Education Can Be Recreation This Thanksgiving

Chances are, you're going to have a hard time trying to avoid technology this Thanksgiving... so why not surprise your family by embracing the robotic uprising this year, rather than trying to prevent it?
Computer Science Education Week is the second week of December, and Thanksgiving week will make a fantastic preview for the hundreds of lessons that have been tailored for the experience.
In general, there are two categories of computer science opportunities that are being made available to the public. First, an unprecedented number of free, self-guided online tutorials have been hand-crafted for those seeking a one hour computer science preview. Among those, you'll see new twists on old favorites, such as Codecademy, and exciting new experiences like Blockly. There are even options with catchy jingles, like the Javascript Road Trip. Any of these would be memorable moments to gather  your family around the computer for.
But what about the families that don't revel in the thought of staring at a computer screen for an afternoon of giving thanks?  There is an option for you, too!  Offered among the many one hour tutorials is a category dubbed "Unplugged."  These options are based on arts, crafts, and playtime. One of the most popular unplugged activities is easily played together with as few as two people, and as many as a school-full.  Utilizing only plastic cups and paper, My Robotic Friends was created to teach the important concepts behind computer science in the form of a cup stacking game. It's a fun and addictive experience that can be played with all ages at the same time.
If you feel like you've heard about Computer Science Education Week and An Hour of Code before, it's probably due to the passion and outspoken relentlessness of organizations such as Code.org, who are striving to make this CSEd Week the biggest one so far. As of this week, their determination has paid off, with over 3 million students pledging to participate in at least one hour of code between December 9th and December 15th, 2013.
What will you pledge to do once the turkey has been eaten?

Follow Kiki Prottsman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kiki_lee
As seen in the Huffington Post on 11/26/2013

Friday, November 15, 2013

Looking Back

When I started Geek Groupies back in 2008, I had no idea where I would be just five short years later. Back then, I didn't have much faith in my ability to persevere through adversity.  Heck, even the name of the blog "Geek Groupies" indicates that I felt like more of an observer on the geek world than part of it myself.  Now, here I am, a computer science instructor at the University of Oregon, and the Executive Director of Thinkersmith, a non-profit that teaches computer science to people as a creative art form.
Looking back over my previous posts, it's amusing to see what little bumps and discoveries I had in the beginning.  It's also sad to see that the biggest lags in posts came during times when I was experiencing so much growth.  I wish I had taken the opportunity to document my personal journey, rather than neglecting to share information during my days of stress and deadlines.  I'd like to think that this will inspire me to write more now, but knowing how difficult eighty hour weeks have been, I find it hard to imagine that I'll put off bed for thirty more minutes to record a thought or two.  Even still, now that the seed has been planted, I believe I'll make an effort.

A quick note about the present. Thinkersmith has taken off, almost faster than I can keep up.  I have team members now, and some of those team members even manage other team members!  We still do camps, classes, and workshops locally, but we have also developed a curriculum that others can use anywhere in the world (some of those lessons have even been translated into other languages by government agencies!)

Our curriculum was so well received that Thinkersmith was asked to join Code.org in the task of developing a K-8 computer science curriculum intended to be distributed worldwide by 2014 at no cost to schools! Of course we said yes.  The better part of my Sept/Oct/Nov was dedicated to this feat, and we're starting to see the finished result of months of trial and toil.

There's so much more to share, but I'm going to have to do it bit by bit.  If you're interested in what goes in to starting an international phenomenon, stay tuned!