doug — off the record

just a place to share some thoughts

Exercise Makes You Grow

Disclaimer right up front.  The title of this blog post is misleading.  Hopefully, it drew you in from curiosity anyway.

I am a supporter at every opportunity to get kids, no matter the size, to go beyond the cursory of tap, click, tap and begin to really understand what’s happening when using an electronic device.  The more that we can do to promote meaningful activities the better.

When do you start students programming?  My answer has always been – as soon as it’s developmentally appropriate.  In the big scheme of things, the sooner the better.  If you wait until secondary school, it’s way too late.  And students shouldn’t stop programming.  Now, not all of them will write the next great Canadian application but the more they understand the logic and the way things work, the better they’ll be.  There’s nothing more frustrating that watching someone just wandering around on their device hoping that they’ll find a solution when you know that a little logic and understanding resolves that instantly.

Off the soapbox and on to exercise.

I recently installed an application on my iPad that has the programmer in me obsessed and the educator in me seeing all kinds of application.

Daisy the Dinosaur is a great beginning programming environment.  It’s fun and you stay inside Daisy’s environment to do the sorts of things that Daisy can do.

What can she do?

Well, she can “move”, “turn”, “grow”, “shrink”, “jump”, “roll”, and “spin”.  She can repeat any of the actions and you can press “Play” to start and/or you can control her actions with a tap or a shake of your device.  That’s about it.  Any programmer will tell you that a program is best when you apply some logic and combine actions to get the job done.

When you first start Daisy, you may wish to enter the Challenge Mode to work through a set of challenges devised to teach you everything that Daisy can do.  You and your students will pick it up in a matter of minutes.  Then, it’s off to free-play mode to see what you can do.

In my case, I decided to show Daisy exercising!

The various commands that Daisy is capable of doing appear on the left of the screen – scroll with your fingers to get more of them.  To write your program, just drag the commands onto the program area.

In this case, I did the following:

  • Start when I shake the iPad;
  • For five times, do the following;
    • Move forward;
    • Shrink; (I thought it could simulate rolling up into a little ball)
    • Roll over;
    • Grow; (to get back to the original size)
    • Grow again because we just did some exercise.

To start the program, it’s just a matter of tapping Play.  Daisy appears on the left side of the stage and in this case, she just stands there waiting for me to shake the iPad.  I did and she exercised her way through the above activity.

It’s addictive.  As the program is running, you can follow the steps as the cyan commands turn magenta to let you know what’s being acted upon.  If you’re a fan of Scratch, it’s easy to see this application introducing the concepts.

The application is free and relatively small – 5MB.  It’s well worth the time to download and check out.  You’ll want to see what your students can do with it.



3 responses to “Exercise Makes You Grow”

  1. It’s a little limited right now but I see some great potential if they enhance it a bit. I thought the challenges to be just about right for the current feature set. Not too long and not too involved. Just enough to get someone using the tools that are there.
    BTW testing out things like this are the main reason I bought my iPad Mini so now I can better justify the purchase. 🙂


  2. […] Exercise Makes You Grow « doug – off the record […]


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