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Why teach your young padawans how to code


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There's a reviewed and expanded version of this talk. Check my profile.

Talk given at Pixels Camp 2016
LX Factory, Lisbon, Portugal
October 7th, 2016

Published in: Technology
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Why teach your young padawans how to code

  1. 1. Why teach your young padawans how to code And keep an eye out for the eventual Kyle Katarn extra geek points if you got that reference
  2. 2. $ whoami Marco Amado Lead Developer /mjamado
  3. 3. Previously... Codebits VII – Lightning Talk Why teach your young padawans how to code ● Logical thinking ● Problem solving ● Spatial perception ● Awareness But times have changed...
  4. 4. Joke time! A programmer’s wife sends him to the grocery store: – Get a loaf of bread; if they have eggs, bring a dozen. The poor guy buys twelve loafs of bread. The whys: 1. Logical thinking It’s a guy, of course. A female programmer would never be this absent minded (dodged a bullet right here, haven’t I?)
  5. 5. The whys: 1. Logical thinking But seriously… From the portuguese Rules of the Road law (translated): Children under 12 years old transported in automobiles equipped with seat belts, as long as their height is below 135 cm, must be secured with a retention system ratified and adapted to their height and weight. Article 55, number 1 In other words: children are exempt of a proper retention system, if ((age > 12) || (height > 135))
  6. 6. The whys: 2. Problem solving There’s no problem too big We were taught the tools to cope with seemingly impossible tasks: ● Entity-relationship diagrams; ● Data flow diagrams; ● Pseudo-code; ● Flowcharts; ● And many more… By John Azzolini - Introduction to Systems Engineering Practices Public Domain
  7. 7. The whys: 3. Spatial perception Story time! During the summer, I had the company of my neighbor's grandson and granddaughter to play with. One day, a ball was lost on my backyard. I’d seen where it went, but the granddaughter was as beautiful as 7 year old girl could be... Being the imaginative 7 year old that I was, I convinced them I had a radar connected to my ZX Spectrum… By Bill Bertram Creative Commons BY-SA 2.5
  8. 8. The whys: 3. Spatial perception Made with Fuse Spectrum Emulator, Original 48K ROM © Amstrad
  9. 9. The whys: 3. Spatial perception Mentally map the space Command line input and output grows old fast. Graphical user interfaces are way better and nothing compares to your first side scrolling game. It’s amazing how long the coordinate system sticks in your head.
  10. 10. The whys: 4. Awareness Not every kid will keep on programming And that’s perfectly fine. As long as they remember to: ● Apply logical thinking and boolean algebra when the need arises; ● Break down the big problem to a few of smaller, more manageable ones; ● Be wary of the surroundings and use spatial perception to describe it as accurately as possible when needed;
  11. 11. The whys: 4. Awareness But mostly… Including, but not limited to, the use of this font Understand and respect the idiosyncrasies of programmers they’ll meet in the future Understand how programs are made, and make better use of them because of that
  12. 12. The whys: 5. The battle for better AI In the future, we’ll be talking to the wall And to the ceiling, the lights in it, the kitchen appliances, the car, the bed, the mirror on the bathroom… We already are! That’s an Amazon Echo, by the way (I’m in no way affliated with Amazon) By Amazon – All rights reserved
  13. 13. The whys: 5. The battle for better AI Do those things will ever “get” us? By spiros mourelatos @ Flickr Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 2.0 Meet Joe & Jane ● The “not smart enough” scenario; ● The “insensitive big brother” scenario;
  14. 14. The whys: 5. The battle for better AI Self-driving cars ● Safe, convenient and economic; ● Road accidents: 9th cause of death worldwide, 1.3M deaths – 1st in the 15-29 interval1; ● Removing the human factor seems like the rational thing to do, right? Right? ● But will it respect our priorities? By CGP Grey - The Simple Solution to Traffic Youtube Standard License Watch it! It’s really good! 1 World Health Organization, data from 2012 -
  15. 15. The whys: 5. The battle for better AI Future generations can only contribute to a better AI – at least by keeping a cheks and balances – if they understand how programs work. It can be the very difference between whether we, as a species, have a future or not. P.S.: I love you, Skynet!
  16. 16. The whys: 5. The battle for better AI Y’all think I’m bat crap crazy? Worth reading Superintelligence by Bostrom. We need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes. 19: 33 - 2 ago 2014 2.710 3.040 Elon Musk @elonmusk Hope we're not just the biological boot loader for digital superintelligence. Unfortunately, that is increasingly probable 12: 18 - 3 ago 2014 5.102 4.019 Elon Musk @elonmusk
  17. 17. The whys: 6. Employability A tale of two horses Two horses were talking in the early 1900’s: – So, d’ya think those new mechanical horse, the so called car, will eventually replace us? – Look, even if it does… By Mr G's Travels @ Flickr Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 2.0 went well…
  18. 18. The whys: 6. Employability We’ve been there, too! ● Late 18th century – Industrial Revolution! ● Cottagers » factory workers; ● Early capitalism sucked for lower classes (some say it still does); ● A century later, industrialism and capitalism rose the standards of living of every social classes by unprecedented numbers; By Unknown (uploader was Chris Sunde) – Frame Breaking, 1812 Public Domain… actually went well!
  19. 19. The whys: 6. Employability The robotic revolution ● We’ve had specialized robots for quite some time now; ● We’re starting to see more and more self checkouts, from fast-food restaurants to large grocery stores; ● Enter the general purpose robot. By KUKA Systems GmbH CC BY-SA 3.0 By Huffington Post All rights reserved
  20. 20. The whys: 6. Employability Meet Baxter It can do virtually any manual labor, although slower than a human, but it doesn’t: By Salammbo31 CC BY-SA 4.0 ● Sleep; ● Take coffee breaks; ● Even have a salary… ● Get tired or bored; ● Take vacations; ● Take sick days (sort of); ● Go on strike;
  21. 21. The whys: 6. Employability What about intellectual jobs? They’re safe, right? ● Doctors? ● Lawyers? ● Teachers? ● Professional Go players? ● Programmers? By Clockready CC BY-SA 3.0 By Khan Academy Public domain
  22. 22. The whys: 6. Employability By CGP Grey – Humans Need Not Apply Youtube Standard License Again, watch it! It’s well worth it!
  23. 23. The whys: 6. Employability One final thought on employability... If you're alive in 30 years, chances are good you may also be alive in 1000 14: 02 - 8 mar 2016 4 4 Celso Martinho @celso Seguir @celsoThat's actually scary as hell... 14: 10 - 8 mar 2016 Marco Amado @mjamado Seguir By Håkon Skaarud Karlsen
  24. 24. The whys: 6. Employability So… no jobs? For anyone? Well, not in the foreseeable future, at least. But it’s certainly a trend. However… Like we saw before about the awareness: Understand how programs are made, and make better use of them because of that, ensuring employability in the long run.
  25. 25. What about Kyle Katarn? LittleFoxStudio @ DeviantArt All Rights Reserved ● Former Imperial stormtrooper; ● Cover operative for the Rebel Alliance and later the New Republic; ● Discovered his force-sensitivity later in life; ● Had a brush with the dark side; ● Eventually became a Jedi Master. Where are we going with this?
  26. 26. Our own Kyle Katarns Pedro Silva ● Former biology teacher; ● Sudden unemployment – because teacher allocation is weird in Portugal; ● Discovered his programming skills later in life; ● Eventually became a professional developer. Sounds familiar?
  27. 27. Part Deux What’s being done about it?
  28. 28. Books Python for Kids A Playful Introduction to Programming By Jason R. Briggs No portuguese version… :(
  29. 29. Self guided Today’s children are online from an early age There’s really no point in making them learn outside of where they already feel comfortable. And let me get this out of the way right now: Be wary of YouTube!
  30. 30. Self guided Khan Academy ● Tutorials can be text-only, video or just audio; ● Several tutorials are hands-on (mostly with guiding audio); ● For ages from early teens to adults (depending on topic); ● Many contents in portuguese.
  31. 31. Self guided ● MIT’s Scratch based; ● Interactive tutorials; ● Star Wars!! ● Minecraft!! ● Very children friendly; ● Contents in many languages, including portuguese (well… brazilian portuguese);
  32. 32. Self guided Codecademy ● For older teens and adults; ● Multi-step guided tutorials; ● Several programming languages and a few libraries; ● Few contents in portuguese;
  33. 33. Presential Picademy ● From the Raspberry Pi Foundation to educators; ● Two-day courses or two hour events; ● UK and USA only; ● Not only programming but physical computing too;
  34. 34. Presential FIRST LEGO League ● It’s LEGO! ● Many countries involved, including Portugal; ● Training for educators; ● Annual competition; ● Set of important values for children; ● You can find them in many tech events – like this one!
  35. 35. Presential Public schools ● Many countries have programming in middle and high-school levels; ● A few have it on elementary school (UK is one); ● Portugal has had, for many years, a secondary (high school) technological course of informatics; ● And now has an elementary school pilot program for 3rd and 4th graders.
  36. 36. Portugal’s pilot project Questions I’ve sent to the Ministry of Education ● What’s the balance of the first year? ● Which teachers (titular or IT) taught and will teach it? ● Teacher received online and presential training – are there plans to extend that training to parents? ● What was the motivation to include Kodu, alongside Scratch, in the curriculum, given that Kodu only works on Windows systems? ● In which hardware did and will the students work? Did the ministry supplied schools with extra hardware when not available?
  37. 37. Portugal’s pilot project Although I’ve sent it twice, a month apart, nobody answered. That was unexpected! #not So, I went directly to a school that was part of the pilot and found a teacher…
  38. 38. One teacher experience IT teacher Nuno Cunha School grouping Morgado de Mateus, Vila Real ● Low income families, low tech literacy; ● Children were and are eager for it; ● No gender or upbringing distinction; ● School had to scrape for hardware; ● Proposed curricula is good, although impossible to fulfill; ● Not mandatory, but all students attended; ● Used MIT’s Scratch; ● Lack of Wi-Fi: assignments had to be passed around on an USB stick; ● Lack of Internet connectivity: wanted to use, couldn’t;
  39. 39. Part Deux ½ What can we teach our younglings? Not “we”, as a society, but “we”, developers and tinkerers, as parents, siblings or uncles and aunts of little children
  40. 40. Ages 6 to 10 MIT’s Scratch or ● Interconnected block methodology; ● Event-driven; ● Pretty much a full-fledged programming language – it’s even Turing complete; ● Portuguese is available! Wesley Fryer @ Flickr Creative Commons BY 2.0
  41. 41. Ages 10 and beyond Python ● Multi-paradigm; ● Easy (dinamyc typing, managed memory); ● Cross-platform; ● Extensive library; ● Focus on discipline; Look, it’s that book again!
  42. 42. Q&A
  43. 43. Thank you Marco Amado Lead Developer /mjamado