Report from Constructionism 2014 – Days 3-5

Thursday’s plenary keynotes began with Gary Stager who talked about constructionism and the maker movement.  Great examples at from a young girl.

Brian Harvey talked about the history of Snap! which he wishes could be called Scratch Senior (since Snap makes Scratch a proper programming language by adding lists and first-class procedures). Note that Mitchel Resnick gave a workshop on Scratch Jr (aimed at 5-7 year olds, iPad only just now, pretty well designed simplified version of Scratch). Brian also gave a workshop on Snap! where we learned that Snap! is well-designed for introductory programming courses at the high school or university level. Brian talked about the compromises he has been making with his principles in helping to design a standardised high school advanced placement course that universities will accept for credit.

Wolfgang Slany presented Pocket Code, a Scratch-like programming system that runs on smart phones and tablets so one can program smart phone apps on smart phones (unlike App Inventor where you author on a PC). He also ran a workshop where we learned how easy it was to make cool apps on your phone.

Jennifer Jacobs gave a nice talk about Dresscode that implements a nice ability to move back and forth between direct manipulation and code. And the code was typically used to generate designs for digital fabrication and physical making.

Carina Girvan talked about how creative teachers could be in Second Life using Scratch for Second Life. Second Life (and OpenSim) seem to continue to have interesting things happening on university run islands. But much of it is private. Many universities did move to OpenSim when Second Life stopped their university discount.

There was a good panel discussion of the concept of powerful ideas.

David Weintrop gave a good demo of BEESMART – A Microworld for Swarming Behaviour and for Learning Complex Systems Concepts. Implemented in NetLogo. David presented his paper on ‘Situating programming abstractions in a constructionist video game’  but I was presenting in a parallel session so missed it. He also presented Arthur Hjorth’s ‘Redesign Your City – A Constructionist Learning Environment on Regional Development’  but I was chairing a different session at the time. David also gave workshop of NetLogo’s network analysis primitives but I had yet another conflict.

I gave a talk about ToonTalk Reborn and got good feedback. Also gave several demos during the conference.

In another session I demonstrated MoPiX – a system for being creative with algebra that I built 6 or 7 years ago.

Pavel Boytchev gave a nice talk about ‘deconstructionism’ — the role that the ability to break things into parts plays in learning and problem solving. Nice demos.

Richard Noss and Celia Hoyles talked about why teaching programming to children. ToonTalk and the Playground Project (1999-2002) that I was part of was a major example.

Videos of the plenaries are available online now.


Constructionism 2016 will be in Thailand (17 of the 120 conference attendees were from Thailand).

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