CS End of Year Summary

April 21, 2017

There are about six weeks of school left.  Four weeks for the seniors.  It is time to look back on the year and consider how things worked out.  This year I only taught one CS course, two sections of “Introduction to Game Programming”.  The course looked at Gamemaker and Unity.

I had three advanced students also look at Blender and Amazon Lumberyard.  The Lumberyard was just for them to make a quick comparison with Unity.  The three advanced students knew nothing more than the rest of the students in the classes about the various software, they were just into it a lot more so I separated them from the crowd and turned them loose.  This was a great decision.  Two (senior boys) of the three worked in tandem.  Incredible team.  The third was a quiet sophomore girl who is an uber-geek.  She worked by herself in the same small room (my office) as the two boys.  Although she did not work with the seniors she was not treated separately by them and did contribute to conversations.    Not a bad dynamic at all.  If I am able I will try to separate the dedicated from the not so dedicated in future classes.  I do realize it has to be done in such a way that it does not cause any tension.  In this case it worked out perfectly.

Prior to deciding to offer this course I knew nothing about Unity, Blender or Lumberyard.  I had dabbled in Gamemaker enough to understand the scheme but not enough to really be proficient.  Since my expertise was nonexistent, I knew this was going to be a course taught by on-line tutorials, YouTube and anything else I could round up.  It was not going to be a lecture course.  My programming course involve very little lecture anyway so no great change there.  The biggest issue for me was finding and previewing the tutorials and YouTube videos.  I have learned from previous errors to always work through the videos before presenting them to the class to use.  There is some bad stuff out there.

Initially I thought of this as being a programming course.  The more I and the kids got into it the more I realized it is less programming and more like a building course.  Using tutorials you do more typing code than learning code.  It is a lot of “type this and see what happens”.  It is possible to learn some coding this way but it is not to efficient.  It is easy to just cut and paste, with no attention paid to what you just cut and pasted.  I had to shift my “teach coding” mind set to “teach problem solving” mind set.  Of the seventeen kids in the course I would say about half got to the point where they could build what they wanted for a game from just looking on-line for solutions.  They could recognize coding errors and understand what the code was doing.  The other half can cut and paste.  Four cannot read directions or follow a simple video tutorial.  Experience with other classes tells me that overall that is really not bad.  The scary thing for me is that the seven freshmen in the course were only surpassed by my three advanced students.  I have to dream up cool and exciting programming and CS stuff for them for another three years.  eeek.

I do plan to continue offering this “Introduction to Game Programming” course.  It is a great way to get kids started with some fun building using cookbook coding.  It is my idea of a great introductory drug.  It is possible for those that want to work in the game writing field to take something like Unity and run with it.

I do not think the course can really be turned into a true programming course at this level.  The background required in C#, in particular the Unity specific code required from C#, is just more than we have time for.  There are also aspects of coding that just do not come into play with the Unity environment.  The idea of code for loops and iteration come to mind.  For a true coding class I will stick with Small Basic and Python.  I am not says a good coding class could not be made using Unity and C# but the time involved would likely be more than a high school student could commit.  Or a high school teacher.  To really teach programming with Unity the focus would have to change.  Right now everything is “Unity using C#”.  It would have to switch to “C# using Unity”.  Not quite as tempting or as catchy.

There is one huge drawback to teaching Unity.  It sucks time like a black hole.  You get this cool idea for a game and four hours later you come up for air.  I am really glad I did not set up a comfortable place to work on my computer at home.  I would never get out of the house.

Technology in the classroom: A warm and fuzzy worm

April 12, 2017

Larry Cuban has one of the best blogs for creating head scratching questions.  His posts on school reform and classroom practice always make me sit back and think.  His latest post on “Have Silicon Valley Teachers Using Technology Daily Altered Their Classroom Practice?” really has me sitting and thinking.  Larry posted some of his “Yes” and “No” replies to his study and they are interesting.  It seems a consistent thread that the changes the teachers made are in how the material is presented (electronic textbooks, electronic handouts, better access to resources) and not a change how the topic is structured.  (By “structured” I mean teaching the same math (or whatever) the same way, just with an electronic textbook and on-line resources.)

I also follow Dan Meyer’s blog on Math Education.  I do not always agree with Dan’s views on use of technology in the classroom, some of his ideas are a bit too tech intensive for my mind, sometimes the math would be lost in the many issues that can happen when trying to teach with tech,  but they are always food for thought.  What I like about Dan’s approach is that his ideas are not just a fancier way of presenting the same math.  He suggests completely different approaches of teaching a broad concept.  For example using a phone camera to record the flight of a basketball, then derive the formula for parabola as opposed to memorize the general forms of the parabolic function then find ways to use it.  His approach is often looking at a problem then developing the math.  An approach I am a big fan of.

From what I can see in my small little world of western Montana, and from my broader reading, education has not changed with the introduction of technology in the classroom.  Things like interactive boards, electronic textbooks, clickers, and so on do not seem to have changed how the teacher waves their hands at the front of the room.  Are these “presentation” technologies really improving on how much a student understands and retains when they walk out of the classroom at the end of the period or two years down the road?  Does a digital book really make a difference other than the weight if the student’s backpack?

There have been changes in classroom practice, which fits under the umbrella of teaching, with the use of paperless classrooms, video presentations (Khan Academy like or home grown), clickers, interactive boards, iPads, 1-1 laptops and so on.  It still seems to me that a teacher from fifty years ago could step into the modern classroom and still operate comfortably.  No, they could not operate all the tech presentation devices but with a whiteboard they could easily teach the curriculum.  I am not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing.  It does seem strange to me that given the advances in tech we really have not changed the fundamental process of teaching most subjects.  The “sage on the stage” still seems to be the norm.  Is there nothing better?  I am not saying there is but with the years of education research with and without technology it just seems strange this is the preferred method for teaching. I know there are exceptions to the rule out there but those teachers that are exceptions seem to have developed their teaching methods independently through their own blood, sweat and tears.  Our student teachers are still coming in with the same fundamental teaching techniques I started with.

I remember the old saying “We teach how we are taught”.  Most of the present generation of teachers were not taught with technology and therefore use it as an add-on.  Presentation methods and maybe an easier way to hand out and collect homework are our concessions to technology.  Is this all tech in the classroom has to offer?

To really use the power of technology we would have to change how we measure learning success.  The present standardized tests would be worthless.  Using and teaching with technology assumes the student has access to said technology.  What would happen if a kid showed up at the ACT with a Chromebook in hand?  What a can of worms.  Now imagine the discussions out of the “let’s use technology to the fullest” approach.  Teachers would be up in arms immediately.  Math teachers would be making statements (and most make complete sense) such as: “Students should know how to do such and such by hand”, “Math is not a black box”, etc.  English teachers would have the plagiarism and file sharing issues to give them bad dreams.  Foreign language teachers would be out of a job.  Now let us bring in the economic issues.  Not every kid can afford a computer.  Not every school can afford to give out computers.  Staff training would be a nightmare.  All those standardized test companies would have to start from scratch.  Politicians would get involved and then things would turn into a real mess.

Somewhere in there is a dividing line as to how far we should go with tech in the schools.  In my math classes I assume a graphing calculator.  If they need the square root 3459 I assume they are going to use the calculator, i.e. the black box.  (When is the last time anyone found a square root using the long division looking algorithm? When is the last time you saw someone whip out a slide rule to compute a square root?  OK.  I admit it.  I have a slide rule in my brief case for these occasions but then I am old and weird.)  So the calculator is an approved technology.  How about WolframAlpha?  Not so much.  “It is the devils tool and will corrupt the minds of our youth.”  Or something to that effect.  I show my students WolframAlpha on day two of class.  If I want them to know the factors of some ugly polynomial, WolframAlpha it is.  I do not want my students wasting their time.  I am more into the “here is why we want the factors” and even that is getting a bit dated.

“Technology in the classroom” is such a warm and fuzzy at the moment.  Technology for enhancing teacher presentation and communication is expanding and is an accepted use of technology.  Since the graphing calculator was accepted, (we are still having issues with the algebraic computation calculators) students using technology to actually solve problems has sort of hit a brick wall.  Deploying the total power of technology to the classroom is right back to that can of worms.

I do have a solution to tech in the classroom.  Introduce whatever you are comfortable with and then hope for the best.  Hey, I did not claim it was a good solution.  I rarely get any of those.

 

One ringy-dingy, two ringy-dingy

April 5, 2017

I am the IT guy at the school.  In a small school this means a whole bunch of things are mine.  Things like projectors, screens, sound systems and, worst of all, the bell system. I am the bell guy because the bells are rung by software.  Scheduling software I am sure was originally written in the 70’s, by evil trolls with large painful bunions.  A couple times a year I have to figure out how to use the software so I can change the bells for the new school year or fix holiday dates that have changed.  This software is an excellent example of not-user-friendly.  But it is good practice for my problem solving skills, which is a euphemism for “How in the heck does the %^$# software work?”  The bells were not ringing in the elementary school after spring break.  Of course the first thing I checked was the hardware.  I push the button, the bells ring.  Nuts, that means it is the scheduling software.  Nuts again.  I pull up the software.  I am pretty sure this was originally written for DOS 1 beta.  I email the company to find out if there was ever a manual written for the software.  Nope.  Bummer.  (Who writes software with no manual?)  I stare and tinker.  An hour later I have an epiphany.  “You’re kidding me.  That’s how it works?!”  I got it now.  If I was clever (never one of my stronger features) I would write my own manual on how this misbegotten piece of trash works but I only have to monkey with it once a year so I will let the bunion ridden trolls call this a victory.  All I care about is the bells are ringing and I do not have to deal with them for another year.  Maybe.

Codecademy Python: Not ready for prime time

March 24, 2017

This summer I will be taking the Joy and Beauty of Computing course on Python at my local university.  From eight to five face to face for five days.  As a pre-requisite, we are working through the Codecademy course on Python.  Online tutorials are tedious.  That is to be expected.  This tutorial is not only tedious but it is a pure brain killer.  It is also full of errors.  I am halfway decent at programming in Python.  (The other half is pretty much hit and miss.)  My knowledge is well beyond what the tutorial is teaching so I can easily pick up the errors in the tutorial.  The first thing that hit me immediately was the fact that Python uses indents to distinguish code blocks seems to have completely skipped the authors list of “important things about Python”.  The indents are just magically there.  “Magically there” is a real bad thing for a tutorial intended for beginners.  Another little detail is the difference between “true” and “True”.  One is a string, the other is a Boolean.  In one of the quizzes, the answer to a question involving “true” is string, which was correct for the question asked.  The previous section had introduced the idea of the Boolean “True” but nowhere was it mentioned that “true” and “True” were different.  For a novice this could be just a bit confusing.

There is an even bigger issue beyond the errors in this tutorial.  The course offered at the local university is intended for beginning programming teachers.  (I am doing it for the professional development credits.  Only thing in the area.)  For some teachers this may be their first encounter with programming.  To give novice programming teachers the idea that tutorials like this are a viable way to teach programming to kids is an absolute and unforgivable sin.

There are people out there that can get through a tutorial like this and benefit.  I suspect they are few and far between.  Is it possible to write an interesting tutorial for something like Python?  I think so.  My thought is that the tutorial should offer an interesting problem up front, think about the problem away from the computer, strategize on how to use the computer to solve it, then investigate the tools (code) to use to solve the problem.  This Codecademy approach is like handing a kid an English – Spanish dictionary then tell them to go shopping in a town market in Mexico.  The result is not Spanish, it is words stuck together in a weird way.  I feel the same is true on tutorials that stress coding vocabulary and syntax.  Without something to do with it, it is just a bunch of unrelated code snippets that probably do not mean much to begin with.

Back in the days when dinosaurs still walked the Earth and I was learning my first programming language, Terrapin Logo, lessons had a different approach.  They started with a goal, “Draw a square”.  First think what a square is, then walk a square, then have someone give directions to someone to walk the square, then write the directions to draw a square.  By the time we hit the computer we knew what we wanted to do in pretty good detail.  Then the lesson went to the things Logo can do.  We did not start with the tools and then go to the task.  Perhaps this teaching style is out of vogue?  Or maybe the people that write these tutorials do not have the slightest idea of how kids learn or how to get kids interested in what they are learning.  This opinion is only backed by 30 year of experience teaching beginning programmers and making sure to the best of my ability kids have fun programming.

A programming teacher needs a repertoire

February 27, 2017

“Is it possible to code a simulation for a roller coaster or Ferris wheel using touch develop? I have 2 students who want to attempt to do this for a science project they have coming up in 2 – 3 months. Anyone have any ideas?”

This request came from the Microsoft Computer Science Teachers Network (Yammer) Touch Develop group.  I do not know anything more about the request, like grade level, course or teacher background so I cannot really give a lot of help.  What it does do is get me started on a conversation in programming diversity.  Not race or sex diversity, but language/environment diversity.

Sometimes kids will come up with the coolest ideas for a project.  I love it when they get their own ideas because they want to take ownership, which really gets them motivated.  However, that cool idea (like a Ferris wheel or roller coaster sim) sometimes just does not fit the language or environments being taught.  What should a programming teacher do?  Option 1:  tell the kid they cannot do it.  Sit down and get back on task with the required curriculum.  Not my favorite option.  Option 2: try to get the idea to fit the language the class is working on.  This option is not all that bad.  It sometimes leads to interesting places.  Sometimes the idea will actually fit with the language and the curriculum.  This is the win-win of Option 2.  Option 3:  Option 2 is not feasible because although the language might be able to do the kid’s idea, it just is not a good fit.  Or the idea does not fit the language at all.  Then it is time to pull something out of the hat that will do the trick.  Here is where programming diversity come into play.

A programming teacher needs a repertoire of languages and/or environments.  This is not to say they need to be an expert in these, but they should at least be at a level where they know they exist, and know where to find resources.  For the Ferris wheel and roller coaster idea, I would immediately think of Alice.  I have seen an amusement park in the tutorial examples.  I would also look at the Small Basic LitDev extension examples.  It would be 2D and require some major head scratching to decide what the finished product would look like but it is still a good thing to think on.  I would also start thinking this might be a good project for Unity, either 2D or 3D.  I would think of these options because I have been looking at programming languages and environments for a long time.

One way to get this repertoire is to have many years of experience and no life other than digging around the internet looking for solutions to Option 3.  Another way is to luck on to a good CS Ed methods course that would look at languages and environments that would show a beginning CS teacher what is out there.  This discussion of such a fantasy course is a discussion for a completely new blog post.

So if Option 3 is the best option does this mean the teacher should bail on the present curriculum and take off on a tangent?  This might not be feasible in most schools and is usually not that great an idea.  It should be a good poke in the ribs to look at what the curriculum is capable of flexing to or maybe if an after-school program is worthwhile.

A good CS/programming teacher has to be always on the prowl for course ideas.  The teaching of programming cannot stay static like math or history.  If a kid come to me with the idea of building a roller coaster here are some perfectly reasonable questions to ask them.  Do you want to print the parts with a 3D printer and actually assemble it?  Do you want to build it in Unity, then export it to your smart phone as a VR program and then ride it with Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear VR googles?  Do you want to build it as part of a 2D game then post your game on Play Store or itch.io?  Absolutely practical and real questions that are absolutely practical and real options.

The New CSTA Standards:Comments of a practicing CS teacher

February 6, 2017

I started looking at the new CSTA Standards today with more than my initial cursory glance.  I have to say they are very ambitious.   I also have to say they are also totally unrealistic.  I have been teaching CS for about 30 years.  With that experience I can understand or have a general idea as to what each of the 9-10 and 11-12 standards are saying.  Without being nitpicky I think they all have merit as part of a CS curriculum.  The trouble is there is just no way for the average school or average CS teacher to implement a curriculum that would contain more than say half of the standards.  The required teacher background would be the first major hurdle.  The teacher has to have knowledge of programming in several languages, which is not uncommon for an experienced CS teacher, but is uncommon for most new CS teachers that did not go through a CS degree program.  Then there are the standards relating to networking and hardware.  From looking at a few CS minor or CS Ed programs this is not even in the curriculum.  It is usually a program offered at junior or tech college or is gained by experience.  There is the standard relating to logic circuits and logic gates, knowledge of which would definitely not be in the lexicon of a teacher learning CS on the fly, which seems to be the predominant method of learning the job.

As an experienced CS teacher, I look through this list of standards with an understanding of the time involved to build a lesson to address the standard.  Many would be rolled up into some project so most are not a standalone task.  A few would be standalone.  I want to look at one as an example.  Standard 3B-N-4-35 “Simulate and discuss the issues (e.g. bandwidth, load, delay, topology) that impact network functionality.  (e.g. use free network simulators.)”  Very hardware oriented but also very relevant to the understanding of a fundaments issue in CS.  My problem with it is that final “e.g.”.  The simple task of finding a “free network simulators” is huge.  They do not grow on trees nor do they advertise themselves.  A teacher wanting to implement this standard is going to have to do a lot of time on the internet trying to find a “free network simulators”, whatever the heck that looks like.  They then have to figure out how the simulator works and then build something for the kids to do with it.  This is not trivial as far as time and effort goes.

Remember, a CS teacher does not have a nice list of textbooks to look through that address the standards.  This is not Math or Biology or Physics where publishers are producing great textbooks that address the standards.  CS teachers have to build their curriculum from scratch, usually on their own time.  Maybe in the future a publisher will decide it is worth the gamble to put out a CS textbook but I doubt it.  The thing would have to be updated regularly to just be sure something like that free network simulator is still around.

Has the effort the builders of the CSTA standards gone to waste?  Definitely not.  They have built something that a school looking to implement a CS curriculum can look through to get ideas.  A teacher looking through it can see weakness and strengths of their present program.

What I would like to see something that is a bit more prioritized.  I see this as the deluxe, platinum edition of a curriculum guide.  Something that a magnet school with a very experienced staff and a curriculum writing budget can use to build the ultimate of CS programs.  Most schools need something that is a bit more constrained and realistic.  They need the bronze edition.  Something that lists the very basics of what is needed to build a viable CS program.  Something a rural school with a business teacher that has just been told she is to offer a CS program next year can use as a guide.  This teacher also needs stage two, how to build the program with a list of assets and resources for those basic standards.  Wouldn’t that be handy?

Unity and Rube Goldberg: A match made in heaven.

February 3, 2017

Ever give one of those assignments where you let your students run with it then come back in the room and ask, “How did you do that!”  I gave my programming students the assignment of building a simple Rube Goldberg using Unity.  I have a ball roll down a ramp and knock over some dominoes as a demo.  I have six freshman computer geeks in one class.  What they are coming up with is amazing.  Six unique scenarios but with lots of “How did you …?” conversations between them.  Just a cascade of events.  Teaching computer geeks how to do things on a computer is not teaching.  It is just getting out of the way so you do not get trampled.

My three advanced students are digging deep into Unity to find physics features I did not know about.  No book, just trial and error.  More cool ideas.

No programming is involved (yet), just fiddling, tinkering and exploring with lots of imagination thrown in for spice.  The bad thing about this is I cannot keep up.  Once we get through the programming section of the book I hope to come back to the Rube Goldberg.

On the never ending task of learning and teaching programming

February 2, 2017

When I taught math I never had to learn any new math from year to year.  The only change between years was an attempt to improve pedagogy.  Usually not a big deal.  Also math is a required course, I was going to get full classes no matter how exciting or boring the course material.  Teaching programming on the other hand is a constant battle with other electives for students and a battle to keep up with programming tools evolution.  There is always something new and cool I want to teach to attract kids into my programming classes: game programming, virtual reality, mobile apps, etc.  They are all viable and exciting ways to teach the basic and advanced levels of programming but also attract the non-programming, non-geek kids into programming.

If I look back at just the last two years teaching programming here are the things I have learned or at least dabbled in enough to evaluate for potential as a teaching tool or required I do some serious refreshing.

  • Project Spark (bad, bad on Microsoft for abandoning this software.)
  • TouchDevelop
  • Blender
  • Unity
  • Corona (knew it, forgot it, relearned it)
  • Kodu (knew it, forgot it, relearned it)
  • 3ds Max
  • Lumberyard (dabbled)
  • UnityScript
  • C# (as part of Unity)
  • GameMaker

In the last four months I have made a Unity maze and gotten it to work with a Bluetooth controller on my Android phone, built a yellow submarine with Blender (for you that remember it is the cover art for the Beatles album), made a 2D platform game in Unity using C#,  and am now learning UnityScript.

Looking back this is not atypical for a school year.  A programming teacher should always be looking down the road for what might make a new course or attract students into present courses.  That ten-year-old AP CS course with Java is just not going to cut the mustard any more.  It is possible to teach the same concepts and have a really cool game or phone app as a final product for a student to keep in a portfolio.

As a math teacher the math I taught last year will work for this year.  As a programming teacher the language/software/environment I taught with last year undoubtedly has a new version that will require some tweaking to get to work this year.  And that update may have some features that will require major time to figure out and integrate into the course.  And the computers you did it on last year may not be up to handling what you want to do this year which means you may have to punt.  (In my case I stole some newer computers from our library, replaced them with old computers, and bought some decent video cards for the stolen computers.  If the librarian ever notices, I am dead meat.)  As a programming teacher sitting on your laurels means you are falling behind.

Being a programming teacher is a never-ending cycle of looking and learning and staying ahead.  It is also being sure you do not throw out the baby with the bathwater.  If a programming teacher is bored with what they are teaching it is time get out of the game.  There is always, always something cool to teach.

 

A little in-service. Finally.

January 30, 2017

I am excited, but then I excite easily.  My local university, University of Montana, on my local campus, as opposed to half way across the State, which is a long, long way away, is offering what could be considered an in-service course for programming teachers.  It is a modification the U.C.  Berkeley Beauty and Joy of Computing.  It seems to have been re-branded the Joy and Beauty of Computing (the J before the B).  Not sure how or why but I am not being fussy.  Yes, it is a bit of a canned course but again, I am not going to be fussy.  The course is wrapped around Python, which is great for me.  I need to do some upgrading of my present Python offering.  I am hoping the course will not turn out to be simply the JBS course.  I do not need a low level Python course, I can read and the course is intended to be a self-guided course.  What I want is how to teach the course, how the curriculum works, where the kids have problems and how best to address them.  You know, all the stuff a teacher needs to know to actually teach the course.  I will walk in with an open mind and if it turns out to be a Python programming course, well I will live with it but not happily.

Another happy piece of news is UofM is building a CS Ed minor.  I have only been trying to get something going over there for 10 years.   It supposed to be in place this fall.  It is still in the approval stage and the powers are being a bit closed mouth about it at the moment.  I am hoping (I hope a lot around here) that it is not just the CS minor with some Ed school courses thrown in for looks.  Considering the number of schools in Montana that want a full-time CS teacher (zero) a CS minor is a bit of over-kill.  What we need in Montana for now is a certification program that is practical for in-service teachers with little CS/programming to get started with.  I think the JBC course is intended to be the beginning of that route.

No matter what these two turn out to be they are both a step in some direction.

Human Experimentation with a Programming Class

January 20, 2017

This year I am teaching a course titled “Intro to Game Programming”.  With a broad title like that I can teach almost anything or any language.  I wanted to get a lot of kids into my programming classes so I figured if I give the course a cool name they will sign up.  They did.  I have 20 kids in the class this semester.  Not bad for a school of 175 kids.  I also wanted to look at game engines as a teaching tool so I guess you would call this live experimentation on humans.  Cool.

I originally started with GameMaker and Corona (Lua) but after looking at the future in my crystal ball, which is oh so reliable (it did not predict Trump but then nothing else did either), I have moved the class into a couple of industrial strength game engines.  I have part of the class in Unity and part in Amazon Lumberyard.  In both cases I just looked for really cheap or free textbooks.  In both cases I hit the jackpot.

For Unity we are working through Patrick Felica’s “Unity From Zero to Proficiency”.  This is actually a series of books that starts at the absolute “do not know didly” stage and advances to a fairly proficient level.  Patrick actually solicits advice and suggestions on improving his books so I give feedback from my students to him.  Considering the price, the resources and the readability it is a great way to go.  Are there errors in it?  Yup but so far they are things that can be figured out.

Amazon Lumberyard is a real experiment.  Amazon bought CryEngine and is revamping it.  The new Lumberyard version is new, as in maybe two years?  After reading the reviews comparing it to Unity I was not going to bother but the author of the textbook I use for Corona suggested I give it a try.  He would send me an early release of his new Lumberyard textbook to beta test with some kids.  New software?  New book?  Human experimentation?  What could go wrong!  Let’s go for it!  So I have three of my sharpest kids working through the book and taking editorial notes as they go.  The book is Dr. Brian Burton’s “Game Design Fundamentals with Amazon Lumberyard: Space Explorer”.  The book is a complete game building course starting with building the objects with Blender, shading with GIMP and then game building with Lumberyard.  The book is very incomplete at the moment.  Chapter 3 is about 8 lines, pictures are missing captions and so on.  Very early release.  I love it.  Instead of the kids just reading the tutorial and following along they actually have to figure out what Dr. Burton’s intent is and fill in the blanks.  I get editorial suggestions from them at the end of the period and forward them on to Dr. Burton.

At the moment the “programming” part of the course has not hit the traditional concept of coding.  We are building things now.  ZtoP uses Javascript for its language and Lumberyard uses Lua.  I know nothing of Javascript and I know Lua in a different environment.  No problem.  After taking a quick look at the programming chapters in ZtoP we should do just fine.  Dr. Burton has not written the chapters on programming for his book yet.  This might be a slight problem but there is always hope the chapters will arrive before the kids get to that point.  After all this is human experimentation so there is a bit of risk involved.