Aye Make, therefore I am…


[1] This is essentially the main argument of the talk, we are immersed in tech and should give everyone the best possible chance of engaging and learning about it. Its not about making every one programmer it is rather ensuring they have a credible taste of the creativity and empowerment programming skills can give them.


[2] this was a wee make for gathering the attention of an audience in the absence of a wine glass. 


[3]  I’m a PhD student and this is visual representation of what a PhD is: a journey to the bounds of a very specific area of human knowledge with a little contribution of knowledge at the end. [The Illustrated Guide to a PhD]


[4]  This is my contribution, a model intended to aid the design and critical evaluation of programming learning experiences. Broadly put it considers learning to programming “in the round” considering the learners, attributes of what they are making and the impact of where they make it.


[5]  A significant challenge for programming education is that we find our selfs in a paradoxical situation: technology is every where but not that cool anymore. Our relationship of aw and wonder at tech has shifted to that of a more demanding consumer (and rightly so). I can take a picture on my cycle to work, share it with my personal network and receive comments before my cycle is finished. This connected ness is the new normal. We are no longer excited when we can get good mobile network more over hacked of when we can’t.dundeeDev.006

[6]  I propose we take an approach to enabling learning that leverages Making as a vehicle to learning about not just code but all sorts of interrelated things. Ideas are good, prototypes are better.


[7]   The maker movement at the moment is vast and energetic, which is superb. It is however broader than 3D printing, cheap single board PC’s and micro controllers. If we look back at what making means we begin to unlock to the power. Massimo’s ted talk in Edinburgh represents this well. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFCk3qWmCoo


[8]  The roots of my hunger to Make are not particularly hard to find. My dad has always fixed thing, cars, washing machine etc. If I go back to my grandfather and 1944, we can see. He was an electrical engineer by trade and worked for a large insurance firm perfuming inspections. Back in 1944 he was faced with the challenge just as pertinent today, the family holiday. Converting a van to motor home back in 1944 was not as typical as it is today, and neither was a canvas baffled rise and fall roof to offer mobility, but head room when on site. The bigger van demonstrates another innovation, it was huge and based on a bedford van. To get a vehicle at this scale would result in a heavy industrial lorry not really whats needed for a family holiday. The solution was to get two lighter vehicles and insert a section of one into the other to extend the chassis and retain the light weight running gear. I think this is lovely illustration of making something that fits your needs be it budgets or simply stuff you just can’t get off the peg. It also highlights the  responsibility and risk that goes hand in hand with making large scale projects. You can’t go and sue Bedford if your van falls in half.


[9]  The first study to explore making in my PhD revolved around small Arduino robots and making them dance. This study demonstrate a small significant learning effect as a result of short robot dance workshop. The interesting bit which was followed up by further study was the way in which some learners were engaging in the tasks. Using external notation, demonstration of good collaborative reasoning (paired programming) and a tight relationship between understanding the effect the code was having on the robot (debugging). I wanted to look at bigger more open and ownable (by the learner) projects….


[10]  As part of Nesta’s one day digital event I ran a series of four Arduino workshops with learners aged 15-17. The structure for the day was based around a morning of learning fundamental electronics and programming and an afternoon of applying this to the construction of a #physicalApp. These two activities were disrupted with various design activities to encourage learners to think about possible build ideas and explore them as sequence of interaction (in storyboards). The group above made a homework monitor, one button to add items one to remove. They wanted a physical dial (which uses a servo) and an RGB LED, They had some problems getting the LED and the Servo working on the same Arduino so decided to use serial communication (one Arduino for the servo and one for the LED) between the two Arduino’s which was rather neat. This went somewhat beyond the stuff I demonstrating.


[11]  This chap was very quite and keen to work on his won, given time developed a physical app that simulated taking accelerometer data from his gran knitting needles and fed that it into an servo drawing machine. The response from his peers when they shared their builds at the end was superb (“~audible gasp~….. thats cool.”).


[12]  If we now step forward to undergraduate learners and 12 weeks of learning, the opertunty to make really cool and complex stuff get better and better. At the end of the Physical Computing module students are given a brief to make a data appliance that makes a bit of the web physical. This group made a home energy use monitor particularly tailored for Older adults. They found a source on the web of live power consumption in some ones house and identified that the two most important piece of information are how much power am I using now? and whats my running total for the month? This was all rapped up in a rather nice photo frame. I believe some of the major energy providers are doing  similar things now (this was 4 years ago).dundeeDev.013

[13]  Last year one of the most interesting assemblages off tech, design and engineering was a brail printer. This data appliance scraped the BBC’s environmental headline and then printed it in brail. This is superb example of many technologies, skill and learning opportunities coming together. This group were particularly driven by an ambitious concept.dundeeDev.014

[14]  This fell out of twitter recently and is a superb illustration of what a professional developer is getting up to with this kind of kit. A had crafted parking sensor.


[15]  One of the interesting contextual factor of programming learning that I have not been able to explore in my PhD is what I have termed as asymmetric collaborations. This is a situation where you have a selection of different domain experts or learners pulling together on a common pan discipline problem. Ira’s visit to dundee seeded a meeting of teachers, scientists, programmers artists and product designers that embodies this. A morning of inspiring different talks seeded and afternoon off collaborative hacking around in Processing with different but equally cool results.dundeeDev.016

[16]  These kind of events stand or fall on the contents of the room on the day and we ended up in great shape. At the right  of the image above we had undergrad students from three different contents working together, at the other end of the room a highly varied mix of individual got behind a common problem or challenge.


[17]  In Primitive Streak Digital the plan was to build on a highly successfully Art Science collaboration between Kate and Hellen Story. In Primitive Streak the first thousand hours of life had be released and descried through series of dress’. The idea of Janice Aitken was to explore how this work could relate to young learners.  My role was to facility some programming with the participants and the result were superb. The girls above made a limb development animation which used the mouse position in the x axis to control progression (rather than buttons, time or scroll bars) and the boys in the back ground made a fertilisation game where you had to navigate a sperm past hostile mucus to fertilise the egg. It was exciting to see learners building resources that are potentially useful to others and learning about programming, biological and design concepts they may not have otherwise come across.


[18]  The intro to object used in primitive streak has become a go to strategy for me when talking about object in computer programming. Particle systems are a great example of computing’s best kept secrets that complexity often emerges from simple origins. The example above can support conversation about circle geometry, opacity, colour and nuanced interaction design (the blobs acceleration to the mouse is non linear and kind of magnetic).http://www.openprocessing.org/sketch/106385


[19]  Here are some supporting diagrams for collision detection and proportionate acceleration. When working on this as part of a Nesta event for teachers, I was struck and pleased that the maths teacher wasn’t excited just about a way of making maths more visable. He had picked up on the niceness of the interaction. Its like inertial scrolling on you mobile device its not a deal breaker but it just adds a little something to the experience and as consumers (rightly so) demand not just functioning items but ones that are pleasant, it really valuable for educators to be able to have a conversation like this. Not just less abstract maths or physics but the maths and physics that you carry about in your pocket and use daily.


[20] Visual output from code is another area I have been exploring. As a result of hand in from an undergrad charged with creating a computational image to demonstrate understanding of sequence, iteration and structure. The produce very credible tartan and code a kilt was born. dundeeDev.021

[21]  Maths and computation is superb at patterns and visual output from a bit of computer code can be quite interesting. This workshop was designed in layers so depending on the learners location on the journey of learning to program they can get something out it. If you journey with programming is just beginning it is about choosing colours and exploring the effect of ordering of the instructions. As you get more advance you can talk about coordinate systems and get a bit more control over your tartan. Further still and we can talk about parameters and then get into the bowels of the functions that actually draw the lines. The neat thing is that the output will not change much depending on where you are on the trip. Running this with Schools recently one teacher proposed the learners design a school tartan based schools colours, this worked really well.


[22] For a final study in my PhD I wanted to explore some purely physical computing and designed a workshop called Wee Beasties. In collaboration with Mike Shorter a circuit design for a post card sized pari of flashing eyes was screen printed in bare condictive. What the one, two or three eyed Beastie looked like was up to the learner.dundeeDev.023

[24]  Conversations again depend on who the learner is, for the youngest it is fine motor control of positioning components, possibly talking about electricity and polarity. For older learners we can begin to unpack the idea of a physical decision or if statement. Depending on where the paperclip patch cable is different output can be whiteness. Running this workshop as a drop in event we also saw huge variety of illustrations with flashing bits.

dundeeDev.024[24]  Pulling this all together excellent learning experiences involve engaging learners fully. Its not always possible and I know in the examples given it is easy to be existing for 45 minutes or a day (hared for 12 wks in the undergrad :). The Model of Programming Experience serves as  framework  in which to make informed and important choices about how to tailor activities to specific learners and specific learning material. All of this is about improving motivation and establishing relevance for the learner. Adam Savage talks about “making the thing can’t not make” and the philosophy of this research to inspire this kind of hunger to create and solve (their own) problems in young learners.

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