Archive for April, 2015

Project Spark Again

April 23, 2015

It works on the i5 laptop!  Nuts!  I can now play with it at home!  Nuts!  It is sunny outside, I have yard work, dishes and laundry to do!  Nuts on it; I am playing with Project Spark.

Now I have to write up some lessons and find some i5 laptops for the school to justify my playing with it.  Nuts.

Project Spark Update.

April 22, 2015

It just looked too good to resist so I kept messing with it.  I had a new i7 tower on the way and it came in yesterday.  Once it was set up the first thing I did was try to install PS.  It works!  It went right through the firewall.  Apparently the ports that supposedly needed to be open do not need to be open or are already open.

After 15 minutes of tinkering with PS on my new computer I have come to the decision this is not something I would use with a regular classroom.  There are simply too many distractions in it.  It does have a “build your own” mode but it is also full of interesting games.  There is not a kid alive, young or old, who is going to be able to resist playing the adventures when they should be programming.  If my home laptop was an i7 I would just disappear from life for a few weeks with this.  Very dangerous.

All right.  Another 15 minutes have convinced me.  DO NOT BRING THIS INTO THE SCHOOL.  I will have to delete it off my computer or I will get nothing done.  There is some kind of addiction involved.  I now have a raging desire to go buy an i7 laptop for home so I can lose contact with reality.  It is not the game playing aspect that interests me; it is the game building that looks totally consuming.  I had one of my students load it on his i7 laptop.  Thirty minutes later he had a world built, and a simple game going.  (Yes, he is very smart but still…)

PS is Kodu on major steroids.  Kodu can be fun.  I think PS could be stupid fun.  I do not have time for stupid fun; I would never get anything done.  I will continue to tinker with PS, but carefully.  The kids not having i7s (or i5s for that matter) does eliminate it from possible teaching tools but for those kids with their own i7s it could be a fun distraction.  More problem solving.

While writing this post I have been communication with the Project Spark test lead from Microsoft.  It looks like my install problem lies with the fact I was trying to install it on a Windows 10 machine.  PS apparently is not compatible with Win10 yet.  I would have sworn I read it was 8, 8.1, and 10 compatible.  Must be old age and dead brain cells.  He said they test this on a Surface Pro with an i5 so I am going to install 8.1 on that i5 laptop and see what happens.

I know things like this are not intended as teaching tool but fun ways to get kids involved with programming and problem solving always requires investigation.  The direction of teaching programming is very unpredictable so everything needs to be investigated.  What can be done for free is absolutely amazing now-a-days.


Project Spark, cool but not.

April 17, 2015

I have officially messed with Project Spark, and it looked so promising.  I do not have any high powered computers (it is a school after all) so I tried it on an i5 laptop which seemed to be within the system requirements.  It ran once and then would not run again.  I tried it on another i5 laptop, it would not even load.  I had one of my students put it on his i7 laptop.  Worked at home, not at school.  I am guessing a firewall issue.  Lots and lots of conversation on the internet on how cool and how defunct this is.  It is really too bad.

I have no raging desire to get kids hooked on programming.  There is a very limited market for programmers.  I want to get kids hooked on problem solving.  There is an unlimited market for problem solvers.  Tools like Kodu and Project Spark (if it would work) make kids think, design, solve and, heaven forbid, have fun doing it.  The kids that like to code will work with any language.  They are just gluttons for punishment but they are few and far between.  AP and advanced programming courses get those kids.  The other 99% of the kids do not see the need or have the desire to program, but give them something like these programming environments and bingo, they suddenly are thinking in the programming logic mode.

As a programming teacher I get hung up in the “code teaching” mode.  If it ain’t coding, it ain’t programming.  That may be true for a very few of my students, but for most they just need a general idea of what programming is and then give them a fun way to dabble in it.  Contrary to many programming teachers belief, Python, Java or multiple other common classroom languages are not fun ways to dabble.

I will continue to tinker with Project Spark in the hope I can figure a way to get it working for my classes.  Besides, it looks just too cool to abandon quite yet and I like cool stuff to play with.  Of course there is one minor glitch with trying to use it in my classes (other than the fact it does not work), the school has only one i5 laptop and only a few kids in my programming classes use anything as good or better.  Hmmm.  I will have to think on that one.  Bake sale?

Techie life and job security

April 2, 2015

It is spring break. We have Wednesday through Monday off.  It being spring in Montana it is snowing and raining out right now.  Let’s see, what did I do Wednesday?  Oh yes, spent 5 hours at school trying to upgrade Powerschool, our grading software.  I did not succeed.  Where am I now (it is Thursday)?  Still try to upgrade Powerschool.  Right at the moment, while I type this, I am on hold for a Powerschool tech.  Been on hold for about an hour.  I have been here 4 hours trying to figure out what is wrong.

I love Powerschool.  It guarantees job security for me.  I could probably burn a cross on the school lawn and the comment would be “Leave him alone, he is the only one willing to work on the Powerschool!”  Just kidding, I would not want to damage the lawn.  I think PS has reached a level of complexity that it is almost guaranteed something is going to be screwed up with it most of the time.  I am try to upgrade from version 7 to version 8.  Version 7 will no longer be supported starting July.  I asked a PS tech the other day what the difference was.  “Not much.”  Then why the big upgrade? Long pause.  Hopefully he was just a tech who was not in the know.

I have Friday and Monday to get PS up and running.  Luckily it is going on a new server so I did not have to hose the old PS7.  If all else fails and I cannot get PS8 running I just have to fire up the old version.  The only thing lost will be my time.  If it was sunny out I would be pissed.  No, wait, the snow has quit and it is now sunny.  It is 4:00 and I have not had lunch.  I am out of here.