Project Spark, cool but not.

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?

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