Journey into Media App Review: Instagram

Instagram burst onto the scene in 2010.  It rapidly gained popularity and boasted 1 million registered users in the first 2 months.  It has since become one of the most used social media apps in the world with subscriber numbers rivaling those of Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat.  It has since been purchased by Facebook in 2012.  It has become vastly popular with teens and continues to attract new users all the time.  The photo-sharing app allows users to post photos, apply various filters and even use geotags to organize and categorize their photos.  Photos can also be organized and tracked using hashtags which help users find and take part in common themes.  I signed up last year but did not use it as much as I thought I would.  Over the course of the past few months, I have been exploring the features of this app as well as conducting student interviews.  I have come to appreciate the simplicity of the app as compared to something like Facebook as it allows you to focus on photos as opposed to filtering through loads of comments and text.

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Features

The more recent addition of the ability to post short videos in a feature called stories has been a welcome addition and has been used widely by teens and adults alike.  In fact, over 250 million people use the feature daily.  The stories feature in itself has been one of the most successful additions to a social media app in recent years and functions much like Snapchat.  The feature allows you to build a story as a collection of photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours.  Along with adding filters to photos and video, there are a whole host of other options available as well.  Drawing or adding text to pictures or videos allows for some customization.  An algorithm dictates which avatars pop up first in your feed and you can scroll through their content from left to right.  Experts have hinted that other features such as geofilters, face filters, etc which are very popular right now may be added in the near future.

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Terms of Service 

In the exploration of the Terms of Service for this app, there are several important pieces of information that both students and teachers should keep in mind when considering the use of this app.  Firstly, students must be 13 years of age or older to use the app.  This is on par with most other social media apps in this category although it does not prevent children younger than 13 from using it.  There is also a strict policy against sexually explicit images, violence, hateful or pornographic photos.  The result of these actions could warrant further action taken by the company.  The other interesting term involves the responsibility of users for the content that appears on their account.  In essence, this means that even if someone borrowed your phone and posted inappropriate photos, you are the one responsible.  This is certainly an instance where digital literacy will come into play as students must be sure that precautions are taken with passwords, etc. The terms also state that “you must not defame, stalk, bully, abuse, harass, threaten, impersonate or intimidate people or entities.”  This is important language for students to understand but unfortunately, there is at best little the company can do about these kinds of abuses.  Reporting them may shut down the account but people will always find a way back in.

Student Perspectives

When asked about Instagram students had this to say,

Mr. Braun: “Is Instagram an app that you use often?”

Student: “Instagram is the first app I open when I wake up in the morning”

Mr. Braun: “What do you enjoy about the app?”

Student: “It’s a great way to connect and meet new people.  I love using the explore feed”

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Mr. Braun: “Do you use the messenger part of the app to communicate with friends?”

Student: “I don’t do much commenting but I love sending and receiving photos/memes.  I think kids just like communicating through photos”

” I like finding relatable content while exploring Instagram and then sharing with my friends”

Mr. Braun: Do you find that there is often inappropriate content in the app?

Student: “There is always going to be inappropriate/racist/sexist content on Instagram.  You just have to be sure to ignore it because Instagram will show you more of what you like.”

Mr. Braun: Do you use a finsta or Spam account?

Student: “I use a spam (finsta) account for posting the majority of my content.  I have lower numbers of followers on my spam.  I use my main account for browsing content and my spam account is for posting and communicating with friends.”

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Concerns

As with any social media app or online platform, there will be those that abuse their privilege.  There is nothing inherently dangerous about the app itself.  It is attractive to teens because the app caters to mixed media communication which is how today’s youth interact with one another.  However, there are things to be aware of.  The first concern that I came across with the use of this app is that like, snapchat, the interface is designed to keep you scrolling and hitting that like button.  The powerful algorithm used to determine what shows up on your feed is designed with a purpose.  It will show you more of what you like and less of what you don’t like.  This could potentially lead to inappropriate videos/photos being shared with or by students.  Knowing how to have conversations with youth about how and why they share is crucial in addressing these concerns.  This parent guide to Instagram gives a good overview of potential risks and how to avoid them.  For instance, many students may not know that the default setting for sharing content is always public.  There are also tips and tricks included for reporting abuse and blocking users.  Another concern that is sometimes discussed alongside Instagram is its addictive nature.

Mental health concerns surrounding this app have been discussed for some time now but it is something to take into consideration when discussing social media with students.  Many students have reported feelings of jealousy, inadequacy, or depression associated with this app.  As stated in the article above, some experts suggest pop-ups which would warn users of overuse. The drive to continue to check your likes and shares for certain photos even sees some young people deleting photos that don’t receive many likes.  Some also draw attention to the fact that due to the filters and editing tools built into the app, it is a distortion of reality.  Others claim that the app causes a fear of missing out and that users struggle to be present in the moment.  However, in all of this, we have to remember as well that the technology is used by people!  Therefore, it is crucial that educators teach digital citizenship.

Overall Review

Instagram is a great way to connect with others and share important moments with friends and family.  In using the app over the past few months, I have come to appreciate the ways in which youth communicate through media.  I believe the app also has potential to be used to some extent in the classroom perhaps as a photo journal of what learning is occurring.  While it remains immensely important to have honest and open discussions about how and why we share using the app.  In considering the use of the app for a health/wellness intention, I believe that it could prove useful as a photo slideshow or journal of what students are doing in class.  It could also be used as a broadcast app for the teachers to demonstrate skills via video in order to have students practice.  However, due to it’s addictive and at times damaging nature, overall I give this app 3 out of 5 Luke Heads.

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Journey into Media App Review: Sworkit

When I began using this app the goal was to evaluate its merits as a tool to be used along with the Wellness 10 curriculum.  The second criteria I was investigating was whether the app could facilitate a healthier approach to technology use.  The app took off after an appearance on the hit show Shark Tank and an investment offer from billionaire Mark Cuban for 1.5 million for 10% of the company.  The name comes from the abbreviation of the phrase “simply work it”  So far the app has been downloaded for than 14 million times across both ios and Android platforms,  The app caters to those who may not have time or resources to work out at the gym and it’s main selling points are ease of use and accessibility.  Even if you have just a few minutes the app will personalize a workout for you using a variety of exercises that include cardio, flexibility, strength or yoga.  It offers a range of different styles of workouts and the exercises are demonstrated to users via video of trainers in action.  Voice prompts also give you cues as to time remaining or type of workouts.  It is free to download although there are certain features that are only available with a paid subscription.

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   Features

The features included with this app are impressive for a free program.  The free version runs on advertisements but they are not overly distracting.  As mentioned earlier, users are offered the choice of strength, cardio, Yoga or stretching exercises when they first log in.  They can then choose anywhere between 5 and 60 minutes for their workouts.  The video trainer will then take you through the exercises.  You can pause anytime or even adjust the workout for injuries.  For example, if you’ve had a shoulder injury, you can deselect the exercises that you are not capable of doing.  You can also customize your workouts by creating your own or download a whole host of premade workouts including Full Body, Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced workouts), runners’ Warm-up, Office Chair Stretch, Plyometrics, Golfer Sworkout, Around the Office, Surfer Sworkout.  The paid version can be had for the small price of $2.99 a month and gives you access to ask a trainer 24/7 as well as ad-free use among other features.

Terms of Use

Like many other apps in the app store, you must be a minimum of 13 years of age to download it.  However, it can be used in a teaching format.  For instance, I use my projector along with the app to have classroom workouts or fitness center workouts that all students participate in together.  Or, I may invite students to chose a workout of a certain length on their phones and then let them go through the session on their own.  The terms of use also state that the company is released from any liability resulting from an injury and does not claim responsibility in the event of injury.  There is also an option on the app to post photos to social media but the terms clearly state,

“Although we are not liable for defamatory words posted on our Site by our Users even if given notice, we do prohibit defamation under this Agreement and we may, if we believe the situation warrants it, take action against the offending User, including but not limited to telling their mom on them. Please notify us at contact@sworkit.com if any of our Users has posted anything that you believe is defamatory.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CiCN6LQ6IEA

Therefore, it seems as though the app creators have taken precautions to guard against defamation and inappropriate posts.  Another possible concern that has been much talked about in the tech world lately is the protection of personal data.  As fitness data can be something quite personal, companies must be sure to safeguard against data collection.  As Strava found out recently, releasing workout data can course privacy issues for people all around the world.  Luckily, Sworkit has covered this area fairly well through a very simple to use interface that requires little to no entry of personal data.  Whatever data is collected is strictly protected and will not be given to third parties according to the terms of service.  Finally, the terms of service also have a disclaimer of liability which releases the company from liability due to unforeseen circumstances.

Pros and Cons 

This app has tremendous potential in education, especially for Health and Wellness classes.  I have used it as a whole class activity and have even had students evaluate the workouts based on the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines.   This provides some excellent higher level thinking and analysis opportunities as well.  The app is simple to use and even provides a Sworkit Kids version for younger users.  The platform itself is simple and you get quite a lot for the free version of this app.  As mentioned above, there are not many negatives that come with this app.  When examining this app through a media lens, there are some concerns surrounding posting content or personal workout data but once again, it comes down to having a discussion about digital citizenship with students.  The Yoga poses and stretching also allow for students to decompress, and take care of their mental well-being.

Overall Review   

This app has been a great tool to use over the past year or two especially for a change of pace in our regular Wellness 10 routine.  As mentioned above it gives students some choice as well as providing guided exercises with the proper form being demonstrated to users.  Other than minor concerns with the possible sharing or personal fitness data, this app allows students to get exercise, have fun and stay active while alleviating stress.  I give this app 4 out of 5 Luke heads and would highly recommend it for teachers.

Journey into Media App Review: Remind

At the outset of this masters course we were tasked with using and reviewing a suite of apps that were either used by youth to connect with others or by teachers as pedagogical tools.  I chose to look at some apps that could help students with stress, help them stay healthy and promote wellness.  One of the apps I chose to review for my main project was Remind, formerly known as remind 101.  In essence this is a messaging app designed to aid communication between teachers and students.  It is quite simple in operation but has been very useful to me over the course of the past semester.  The app allows teachers, coaches, etc. to send instant messages to students and/or players regarding upcoming events, quizzes, or homework reminders.  Here’s how it works.  The app allows for instant messaging direct to students cellular device in real time.  Students may choose to message back but only if allowed by the administrator.  There is also the option to receive email notifications.  The app also includes a variety of useful features.

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Features

One of the most useful features I have come across is the ability to schedule announcements to be sent at a certain time.  This means that if you need an announcement to go out at 8:00 pm and will not be available to send it, the app will do it for you at the appointed time.  Another useful feature is the ability to send file attachments with your reminders.  I have used it to send homework attachments, or even notes or information sheets.  There is also a useful feature that allows teachers to post their available hours in order to be contacted.  This allows for greater connection to home and gives teachers some flexibility with regard to when contact can be made.  The app also allows for multiple users to be administrators on the site.  This way teachers can collaborate together to post content or reminders.  They can also see read receipts for which students have read the messages posted.  In addition, teachers can choose to allow students the ability to respond to messages as well.  Finally, there is an option to send group messages as well.  This can be a useful feature when discussing options with parent groups, having students discuss content or posting discussion questions.  I’ve used this app for both teaching and coaching and I was very impressed with it’s possible applications in a variety of situations.  As a coach I found it useful for posting when games were rained out or cancelled to avoid making phone calls to all the parents.  I also used it for planning purposes.  As a teacher it has been very useful especially in Wellness 10 where we might be in different locations from day to day.  I use it to post reminders such as, “be sure to bring your skates today” or “remember that we are starting archery tomorrow.”

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Terms of Service 

One of the biggest surprises when reading through the terms of service was the fact that students under the age of 13 need to have signed permission from a parent in order to use the app.  This is something to in mind if you are teaching in middle years or elementary.  In addition the terms state that as a user of the platform you are required to comply with the children’s online privacy protection act or COPPA.  In other words, personal information collected can not be used in any way.  It seems as though Remind takes these concerns seriously as they do not wish to be noncompliant with COPPA.  If privacy concerns become an issue, contacting Remind directly will trigger the company to look into the allegations and possibly to take further action if necessary.

Pros and Cons

I had very few initial concerns with the use of this app.  It is a simple yet effective way to send out reminders to students and allow for quick and easy communication as well.  Many teachers complain about answering emails at home and constantly feeling like they have to be on call.  However, with a tool such as this, I have found it allows for quick access to students’ comments or questions as well as a more immediate response to student needs.  The beauty of the app is that no phone numbers are used therefore there is minimal risk of privacy issues arising.  Some parents are concerned about messaging contact between students and teachers if they have not understood that there is no exchange of phone numbers and that the app is usually only one way messaging in large groups.  If there are parent concerns about privacy, Remind has also written a handy guide for parents which helps explain the app and its’ purpose.  With cell phones now in the hands of most students over the age of 14, this tool allows for assurances that messages will be seen.  For those who teach younger children, this tool may not seem as useful but would still apply in situations where teachers need to contact parents quickly and efficiently.  Another issue is the concept of digital divide.   The app is rendered somewhat ineffective in situations in which not all students have access to a device.  For example, I didn’t use Remind very much in my previous teaching assignment due to the fact that messages sent would only reach about a third of my students.  In considering the use of this app with parents, it is also important to weigh the pros and cons.  For instance, a school with a large immigrant and refugee population might mean some significant language barriers and therefore some difficulty setting up and using the app.  This could be addressed with a simple parent tutorial tech night for example.  However, if all students have access and can use their devices throughout the day, there should be no issues.

Overall Review

In speaking with students who have used the app, several things were mentioned in relation to the app.  Most students mentioned that they appreciated receiving updates on things like due dates and assignments.  Some also mentioned they liked the ability to post questions to the teacher or in a forum.  However, some did draw attention to the fact that since Google classroom has many of the same features as well as the ability to post assignments and grades, Remind seemed, at times, redundant.  One of the advantages of using Remind is that the messages stream seamlessly to students cell phones with no surrender of cell numbers.  This safeguards both teachers and students from potential privacy issues.  In general I have found this app to be very useful and simple to use as well.  Often I will find myself at home and suddenly remember that there is a piece of information that I needed to share with students before the next day.  The app allows me to send a quick message so that I know that we can hit the ground running with our next activity the following day.  In closing, I would give this app 5 out of 5 Luke Heads and would highly recommend it for teachers and coaches.

 

You’ve Reached Your Goal: Digital Citizenship in Health/Wellness

I have recently been exploring the idea of using technology in my Health and Wellness classes to promote a healthy lifestyle.  The idea is to explore apps that would allow integration of Health and Wellness concepts into class structure and into the students own personal lives.  The end goal being to evaluate these apps for their effectiveness.  I plan to evaluate tools that touch on the areas of evaluation, physical activity, health and safety, class management and goal setting to name a few.  I also wished to explore the link between Digital Citizenship and the promotion of wellness through the use of technology.  Mike Ribble identifies 9 elements of digital citizenship which can be viewed as norms for behavior with regard to technology use.  In this work Ribble describes these 9 elements as follows;

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In the exploration of these elements I was at first struck by the fact that my chosen area of study seemed to only touch on the area of digital health and wellness.  In many mays this is true however, it is somewhat simplistic to think that just because I am exploring health and wellness topics, I will not be implicating other elements.  Indeed it has been apparent in recent years that screen time among children and teens has risen drastically, often replacing physical activity and leading to increased levels of obesity according to Boone and Gordon.   However, after further examination, a focus on health and wellness in a digital age could provide opportunities for other elements to explored as well.  These could include but are not limited to; digital communication, digital etiquette,  digital security and digital literacy.  It is clear that that any inclusion of technology in any area of the curriculum must also offer a valid discussion of digital identity.  As Wesitheimer and Kahne discuss in their work, the examination of digital citizenship merits a closer look at what types of citizens we want students to be online.  Whether promoting personally responsible citizens, participatory citizens or justice oriented citizens, it is crucial to include discussion of digital identity and what implications health and wellness apps have for identity online.  The recent debacle with Strava and their heat map has proven that releasing fitness information to the world can have consequences.

Teaching students to be conscious of what fitness/health data is published for others to see is an exercise in digital security.   Students’ health information and data should be carefully considered when being shared.  In addition, many of these apps contain social media features and the ability to contact and connect with others.  These exchanges of information between peers and also between companies constitutes the same need for digital etiquette in regards to the publication of information.  It’s clear that any examination or inclusion of wellness/fitness apps must also provide for students an open discussion around identity questions and privacy rights.  As Talitha Williams points out in the following TEDTalk, data generated from Health/Fitness apps can have a tremendous impact on our general health.  However, the elements of etiquette, communication, security, and literacy are all valid parts of this ongoing discussion.

As Homayoun discusses in her article, the dangers of getting caught in a feedback loop mean that teenagers are not always cognizant of what they should or should not be posting online.  In many ways wellness and mindfulness apps would offer a sharp contrast to the constant need to post and share new content.  Many new apps like SmilingMind are geared toward helping teens and adults find balance in their lives via a serious of meditation and calming reminders.  The temptation with fitness apps is very similar to other social media apps in that many are based on comparisons with others, thereby increasing the need to outperform others.  As is notable with the current rise in sales of wearable technology, the more we compare ourselves with what others are posting, the more we are motivated to continue to post our athletic achievements online as well.

  As I continue to explore the world of health/wellness apps, it will be crucial to, as Costa and Tores state,

“establish a reputable digital identity which students can looks up to and follow as example.”

In closing I believe that this project touches most significantly on the elements of security, health and wellness, communication, etiquette and communication.  It is in each of these areas that proper use of technology to enhance physical and mental health must be modelled.  Topics of identity and and presentation of self online should be explored in detail and students should be encouraged to live “non-linear lives” as Brown puts it.  As far as next steps are concerned for the project.   I will be finalizing the suite of apps to explore and beginning to use them myself as well as introducing them to my students.  A series of videos/blogposts will allow me to evaluate the apps and their perceived effectiveness in the area of health/wellness.

 

 

 

Technology and Wellness: It’s Time to (Re)connect

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It’s been a while since my last post so I’ll start with a quick reintroduction.  I have been teaching K-12 in the French Immersion program in Regina, SK for ten years now and I have loved the challenges and rewards that have come along with it.  This is my final Masters course and so I’m very excited to be finishing my program in a fourth course taught by Alec Couros .   I used to consider myself somewhat tech savvy but have, in recent years, realized that I have only begun to scratch the surface.  In many ways it is becoming clear to me that the lives we live are inextricably linked to, and perhaps even defined by, technology.  The lines between the virtual world and the visceral world are being blurred infinitesimally.  As the younger generation makes its way through the doors and hallways of our schools, critical questions about the relationship between education and digital media/citizenship must be posed.  Today’s youth are connected in a way that previous generations could have never foreseen.  Content is being created and consumed at an unprecedented rate.  According to Youtube, 300 hours of new video are uploaded every minute and 500 billion videos are watched everyday.  It has never been easier to create, share and comment on media from all over the world.  Whether it be video, live streams, music, chat, images, gifs, etc, the world is awash with content.  So how do we curate and filter what we would like to consume? How do keep emotional, social, physical, and mental wellness intact?  More importantly, how do we teach youth to approach content through a critical lens?  One important caveat here is that to teach youth how to navigate these tidal waters of content, there must be an awareness of what is out there in the form of apps and websites.

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It is clear that the little social network that started it all (Facebook) has continued to gain popularity over the years and is growing in worldwide subscribers.  However, recently the now tech giant has struggled to attract younger audiences and a variety of smaller social networking startups have, one by one, risen to take the place of Facebook promising new features, live parties or greater connections with friends.  From Houseparty to Ask.fm to Sarahah to Vsco, apps fall in and out of favour with teens.  Some lasting a few months others making it almost a full year (or longer as in the example of Snapchat) until the next app storms the phones of the world’s adolescents. In the Fall, a CBC news story highlighted the dangers of apps that are secretive or ask for anonymous feedback reporting that cyberbullying and harassment levels are hitting all time highs among teens.  Common Sense Media gives Sarahah a rating of 1 out of 5 stars due to the potential risks involved with it’s use.  Some of the most popular apps among teens today are also causing the most psychological and emotional damage.  I agree that simply trying to limit or police the use of these apps is not really addressing the problem long term.  Along with teaching about digital citizenship and media literacy, modelling the proper use of apps and the use of technology to say healthy and well is crucial.   As Richard Louv suggests;

“Man’s heart, away from nature, becomes hard; [the Lakota] knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans too. —LUTHER STANDING BEAR (C. 1868–1939)”
― Richard LouvLast Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

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As an educator who teaches High School Math, Health and Phys ed, I have to admit that my use of technology has been quite limited to use in the confines of the 4 walls of my classroom in teaching of math.  I have gotten quite comfortable using blogs and apps in the classroom both for assessment and instruction.  However, there exists a whole host of apps designed for use outside of the classroom as well.  Health and wellness apps need to strike a balance between ease of use and engagement in order to help users reconnect with themselves, with nature, and find balance.  I hope to explore apps that promote health and wellness for teens and which can be used in the Sask Health 9 and Wellness 10 curriculums.  I have a keen interest in the outdoors and have been doing a lot of reading around Nature Deficit Disorder and the loss of connection to outdoor spaces.  I hope to be able to evaluate and explore the possibility of using technology to enhance learning in spaces like the Gym, Fitness Centre and in the best classroom there is: the outdoors.

Fitness apps and wearable technology has seen huge growth over the last number of years and as students are increasingly unable to separate themselves from their phones for more than a few minutes, it seems logical to utilize the existing technology.  Even augmented reality apps like Pokemon Go have been instrumental in getting kids active and outside.  My hope is to explore the relationship between Phys ed/outdoor ed and technology through the evaluation of various apps and their potential educational applications.  Many proponents tout technology as crucial in the engagement of students in phys ed/outdoor ed.  Others claim that technology and outdoor ed are diametrically opposed and cannot be mutually beneficial.  I believe that technology can play a pivotal role in outdoor ed/Phys ed through engagement, assessment and fostering connections with others and with nature.  Apps that encourage health and wellness are also a great tool to keep parents and students accountable in an age when unhealthy habits are all to easy to form and bullying due to online anonymity is growing.  Let me know what you think?  Please fill out the survey below to help me get started on this.

As far as concrete next steps are concerned, I hope to:

  1. Explore apps that are used in the Phys ed/outdoor ed community using #pechat, #outdoored, #wellness and #PhysEdTech
  2. Compile a list of apps and catergories to work from including but not limited to; fitness, augmented reality, mental health, outdoors, assessment, mindfulness, organization etc.
  3. Chose 3 apps and become familiar with the use of these apps through their use during term 2 Health 9 and Wellness 10 classes this year.
  4. Document findings through blogging and videos in order to draw final conclusions.

 

 

Learning to Code Online

When I started out in ECI 831, we were asked to consider a learning project.  The goal was to learn something new that we had never tried before.  Through documentation of our learning in an online setting, we would not only be learning something new but also reflecting on the process online.  I decided I would start learning to code.  I had a student in my class who was quite keen on it so I decided I would give it a try.  It was a bit of a rocky start, I have to say, because I was unaware of the sheer number of different programming languages available.  It was tough to know which one would be the best to use.  In addition, there were so many different places to learn as well.  From open online courses to dedicated sites for coding like CodeAcademy, and Hour of Code.  If you are unsure about where to start check out this useful article by Geoffrey Barnes which guides you through which language to learn first.  I started with Java and Javascript as a base because of the ability to do simple animations on websites etc.  It took me a while to be able to get a handle on how to give commands to the computer.  In this sense, as I’ve alluded to in the past on this blog, it really is like learning a new language.  Each function also has specific parameters that allow you to fine tune the action.

Once I completed a few smaller projects, I decided I would try to write a program that explained what I had learned during the term.  I used javascript to start writing a program with the help of some tutorials from Kahn Academy.  I have to say that the online coding community is awesome and very helpful when it comes to new learners in coding.  Below you can see an example of some issues I had with my program.  Within a few hours, several people had offered advice and one person had even sent me an example of his program to look at.  I have to say that overall the learning has been augmented by the social features built into the various online learning websites.  It’s imperative that learning takes place alongside others, even if you aren’t face to face.   Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 1.43.09 PM

In the first blog post in this series, I stated some of my goals for this learning project.  Firstly, I wanted to learn about different coding languages and choose one to learn.  Secondly, I wanted to get a a basic understanding in a programming language to the point where I could carry out a basic task like creating a simple program.  Lastly, I wanted to learn a little about the basis for teaching in schools, the value in it and how I could possibly incorporate coding into my classroom.  Having set all these goals, I set to work learning to code.  Even after the coding for the course of this term, I still have a lot to learn.  In retrospect, it may have been a good idea to join an online open course dedicated to coding but I had little available time to commit to this so I chose to learn at my own pace.  Making connections online was at times difficult because I lacked a certain vernacular to participate in online chats and forums.  Twitter and coding chatrooms became a great source of information for me and I soon began connecting and asking questions of other coders.

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After a few initial projects, I started working on an interactive story that would serve as a summary of learning for the class.  It became apparent immediately that even to make a simple program would require hours and hours of coding.  Calling images or animating them was another process altogether.  One of the biggest things I learned during this whole process was patience.  It took a lot of patience to keep plodding along even though at some points, all I was able to accomplish was to make a simple button that clicked to the next screen.  I hope that this is something that will help me in the future as I teach my students how to use online spaces for learning.  These online contexts are so rich for reflection and documentation of learning and collaboration.  I still have lots to learn with regard to coding but in reflection on my goals set out at the beginning of the term, I feel that I have definitely, solidified in my mind the importance and benefits of teaching coding in the classroom, become familiar with coding on a basic level, and participated in online learning and documentation.  So, without further ado, have a look at my first interactive story.  I programmed this using Kahn Academy.  Hope you enjoy it!  

Luke Learns About Social Media

https://www.khanacademy.org/computer-programming/luke-learns-about-social-media/2956636555/embed.js?editor=yes&buttons=yes&author=yes&embed=yes

Made using: Khan Academy Computer Science.

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Creating a Computer Program Can’t Be That Hard, Can It?

For the past few weeks I’ve been working on coding my summary of learning project so I thought I’d share a little bit about the process of setting up your own program.  I decided to use Kahn Academy programming interface to set up the program which in my head would run like an interactive story of sorts.  The idea was to have characters in the story and include some animations and basic functions.  I chose to start with Javascript because so far it’s the language I’ve used the most and it allows for simple animations and basic functions like mouse clicks.  I have to admit that initially I had bitten off more than I could chew.  Mouse click functions turned out to be fairly straightforward.  The key is to make sure that the correct page is called up when the button is clicked.  Going through the process reminded me again of the connections between editing skills in writing and combing through your code to see where the problem is.  It takes a keen eye.  Sometimes it’s as simple as a missing semi-colon or an un-closed bracket.

animation

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The second new trick I learned was how to make things move on the screen.  This was a bit more difficult because there are more parameters to keep in mind with the movements.  You have to basically tell the computer where you want the image to move, for how long, where to start, where to end, etc.  This took quite a bit longer than expected because I was reading and watching tutorials but I eventually had to take a look at some sample code to get me started.  This is where a open education course may have helped to give some further direction for my learning.  It becomes difficult to self motivate when you get stuck.  The beauty of online learning is that you do have access to a wealth of network options to ask questions.  It was great to go on some of the coding forums and ask questions to get clarification for how to set this up.  Twitter was also a huge help in finding great little nuggets and tidbits of information such as the one below.  This was a good article to read because it helped me realize how my program was being slowed done by clunky pieces of code.  For a smooth running program it is so important that the code is as succinct as possible.

The experience has been meaningful in many ways.  It has taught me patience, persistence, and has given me pride in learning a new skill.  It has also given me an appreciation for online learning and the importance of networks.  They give insights that would otherwise take years to uncover.  It’s a wealth of interactive knowledge that we have access to at any time of day or night.  In the end I will hopefully have the program finished in the next few days and will post the link when it is finished.  Although it has been a long and sometimes frustrating process, I feel as though I have definitely learned a lot and hope to continue with coding in the future.

coding-super-power

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