Educational App Review – AgendA+

One educational app I found for the iPad is AgendA+. This app is what it sounds like. It’s an agenda, a calendar, a planner, or assignment book, whatever you want to call them. But it’s digital and on something students may already carry around. It’s quick and convenient. Also it’s free! 

I began looking for agendas for students because a teacher I worked with wanted something her special education students could use to keep track of, most importantly, homework and grades. Unfortunately, this program doesn’t allow you to write notes home to parents or track behavior, but depending on your student or current system you may not want the students to have control over that anyway. 

The app is also very simplistic, which in my opinion is a benefit because it causes less distraction. And the assignments and courses are quick and painless to add and delete. It’s also very easy to keep track of your grades. Once you receive your grade, you click on the assignment and you enter the percentage you got on it. You can view the assignments in a weekly or monthly calendar view and you can organize them by their due dates. Below are pictures of an example assignment:

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Hopscotch Programming

Coding and programming probably seems intimidating to most people and it definitely was to me, especially since I don’t have a strong background in computers, but the iPad app Hopscotch made it simple. Hopscotch is a coding game for kids. It allows kids to create a simple code. They are giving options of little characters to choose from and the kids can make them do whatever they want. This program introduces kids, and adults, to coding in a friendly, simple environment and teaches them that coding isn’t as hard as everyone makes it seem. Even I could create something on Hopscotch. I made three of the characters make three different sized triangles around my name (shown below).

hopscotch code

How did I do this? Well, it was actually pretty easy, much easier than I was expecting. All of the characters do the same basic thing, but they have variations in distances to get different sized triangles. To start off by setting the line width and color. Then I had to set a different speed for each character so they’d finish their triangles and get to the opposite side at the same time. I also had to make them move a specific distance before they started making their trail so all of the triangles would  be vertically centered.

Next, I had to tell them to make the triangles. I started with a container which told it to leave a trail for whatever was inside the container (the triangle). The pattern for the triangle was side angle side angle side. I didn’t need to tell it to make a third turn because the first and third sides connected to form the final angle. All of the characters turned 240 degrees because they were all equilateral triangles and they have equal angles. The only variation between characters was the distance they had to move.

Once they completed their trails, I made them rotate again so they were facing upright and then the had to move the remaining distance to the opposite side from where they started. Since they ended where they started, the distance they moved before and after leaving the trail equaled 950 because they all started and ended vertically centered. The final piece was my name. I added a text object and edited it to say Emily. Then I changed it so my name would spin 360 degrees when the iPad was shaken. Below are pictures of one of the character’s blocks and the “Emily” blocks.

hopscotch blocks

Introduction to Programming

With technology constantly increasing, more discussions have been focused on programming. But what is programming and coding? Coding is simply telling a computer what to do. You need to be specific and go step-by-step. Computers are made of binary codes, but writing a binary code would be nearly impossible. So programmers came up with a few other programming languages. If you’re interested in more information on coding for beginners check out Code Conquest’s article “How Programming Works.”

So now the big issue is, should everybody learn to program? Programming has gained more support over the years and more people have jumped on the programming band wagon, including big celebrities like Will.i.am and Chris Bosh. But what’s the argument for getting programming into schools and making if available to everyone? Programmers argue that it’s a new way of thinking and problem solving. And because computers are all around us everyone should learn how to do it so they understand the why and how behind computer programs. To see the full argument watch the video “What Most Schools Don’t Teach.”

In my opinion, not everyone should be required to learn to code. Yes, I think it’s useful and it should definitely be an option in schools but as an elective not a core class. It shouldn’t be required because there are already enough required class that it would need to either replace one of those or take up an elective class which is the student’s choice. No more elective classes should be taken away because they let students learn about what they’re interested in and explore options they may not have known they were interested in. Art and music are an excellent example of why programming shouldn’t be required. Art and music are around us everyday, probably as much as programming and computers are but we aren’t required to learn how to paint or compose a piece of music. We might be required to take and introductory level course but that’s it. And the same should go for programming. Maybe incorporate some basic programming into a computer class but don’t force any more advanced classes, they should get students interested and show them it’s an option. And just because you take an introductory class or two doesn’t mean you should be writing code. It takes awhile to become a coding expert, as it does with any subject, and people who aren’t professionals don’t need to be writing codes for everyone to use. But don’t just take my word for it. Follow the links to read other people’s opinion.

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Introducing kids to programming may seem like a difficult task, but there are plenty of ways to simplify it and get kids interested and involved. One easy way to introduce the concept is with a basic coding exercise. It doesn’t require a computer and it can be funny and engaging. Teachers could have students “code” the steps to complete a simple task. In my W210 class, we made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but you could also do it with other tasks as well.

Another thing that would get kids involved and excited is Lego robotics. Most kids love Legos and getting to play with them is fun. Plus getting to code the robot to do something would be even more fun. Who doesn’t want to see their creation come to life. There’s also a website www.alice.org that introduces kids to programming in a 3D environment which also makes this website engaging as well.

Programming can be very useful and is a very good career option but it shouldn’t be forced upon every student but available to them.

 

Photo Credit: http://techli.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/coding1.jpg (10/01/2013)