Getting the right tools

We were watching the 6 o’clock news last night when this story came on.

Small Windsor school – big Best Buy grant to support Lego robotics team

First off, kudos to the team and coach from M.S. Hetherington Public School for applying for the grant and for their success in reaching the provincial robotics championship this year. In the article, they talk about using a block programming language and in the video on the news, you could see that they were using Scratch.

It’s an appropriate language for this purpose and encourages learning and the ability to grow coding skills.

If you go to any computer conference, you’ll see a number of different types of sessions dealing with Scratch. The presenter will tell you that any device will work for the programming although typically they have some high end computer to demonstrate what they’re talking about.

There was one part of the article above that leaped out at me.

“You do block coding and the bigger screen that you can use, the more of the code you can see,” says Stoffle.

Consequently, part of their grant money will be to purchase three laptops for the actual coding. With smaller screens, you end up forever scrolling up and down as you write and debug things. If you’ve ever worked with Scratch, you’ll know what I mean. You end up being strategic about placement in the workspace – once you’ve located the right piece of code. It’s doable but can be time consuming.

The fact that this makes the story is telling. In a rush to buy technology for schools, often the less expensive solution can often be appealing as you can buy more units of technology for the amount spent.

Despite these challenges, the students were able to succeed. Imagine how much more productive they could be with the right tools. That needs to be part of any strategic planning process.

There are lots of things that work out fine with a smaller screen, but involved programming projects aren’t one of them.


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