Some serious dragging and dropping


So often, going to a conference can be made with just one excellent presentation.  At the recent CSTA Conference, this session was one of those for me.  It was entitled Maps, Movies, and Multiplayer Games Workshop at CSTA 2018.  It was up against a session on sorting for me and walking all the way to that session was a determining factor for me.  I heard it was also a great presentation but I was blown away at this one.

Like many computer science teachers, I was skeptic at first when drag and drop programming languages emerged.  After all, don’t real programmers code in a particular language?  Things certainly have changed over the years and drag and drop has become a mainstay.  It’s become more sophisticated and truly deserves a place in the classroom.  But, how many times can you be introduced to drawing a rectangle on the screen and talk about the integration with mathematics?

I had little idea about what I was in for when I read this title but I’ll tell you, I left wanting more.  And, I’ve been playing and thinking about it ever since.  The session introduced the concept of Netsblox to me.  I’d never heard of it before.  In fact, when I walked into the room and looked at the screen, I thought that I might have just walked into a Scratch session instead!

Wrong again, Doug.

NetsBlox is a visual programming language and cloud-based environment that enables novice programmers to create networked programs such as multi-player games. Its visual notation is based on Scratch and it uses the open source JavaScript code base of Snap! NetsBlox opens up the internet with its vast array of public domain scientific and other data sources making it possible to create STEM projects, such as displaying seismic activity anywhere on Earth using an interactive Google Maps background. Similarly, weather, air pollution, and many other data sources such as the Open Movie Database and the Sloan Digital Sky Server are available. NetsBlox supports collaborative program editing similar to how Google Docs work.

I mean, look at the screen.  Certainly, I can be excused for mistaking this to be Scratch.  Impressions changed when we looked at our first application.

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Tapping into data, we used Google Maps as the stage and geo-location to determine where we were.  (Omaha at the convention centre)  From there, we accessed the latest temperature.  Or, click around on the interactive map for a different location.  It’s warm in Kingsville as I write this post in the early morning.

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How so?  It’s from the data sources that Netsblox makes available for you.

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Just look at the sources.  I would be lying if I didn’t say my jaw hit the floor.

We spent some time exploring the environment and talking about the possibilities….  (and this geeky attendee was multi-tasking on my own with my Chromebook)

Then, it was off to a couple more examples where Netsblox shines.

  • A pong game.  How is that exciting?  It’s exciting because it’s played with two computers interacting.  You only see your side of the screen.
  • A real time chat application.  The more the merrier.

Both illustrated how Netsblox is more than just a one person interacting with one application on his/her screen.

In a blink of an eye, the one hour was over.  This could easily have captured my attention for hours.

So, for you drag and drop afficionados,  I’d encourage you to check out the site (and the presentation … links are above).  You can’t help but be blown away.

OTR Links 07/16/2018


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.