Saturday, September 17, 2016

No One who needs a Computer should be without a Computer....

....When we can source them for free.  There are computers which have had the Hard Drives removed that go into the land fill everyday.  If you create an OS with Linux you can make these machines usable.  I am sharing a talk on how to build these today during the Nashville Maker Faire at the Adventure Science Center.  We have the Linux Lab set up for you to play with and we will be demoing drive creation and talking about how to find free machines.

Here are some of the directions I will be referencing:


My son and I have published a book on the subject for kids with a gentle approach to the vocabulary and methods to avoid the pit falls we ran into when trying to find this information out in the wilds of the internet.  An update with the Ubuntu directions are coming soon.  Find this book at:

Many thanks to Make Nashville, the Adventure Science Center, and BencinStudios (video game creation) for making these talks possible.

Monday, August 8, 2016

How to stop bullying in your child's school part 1

My son attends a school with a diverse population.  Some of the students do not have the resources to meet their basic needs.  One day Boy came home and was complaining that a girl next to him kept insisting on borrowing his pencil and would use the eraser up.  This had been happening for a while and he told me he was not sure how to deal with it.

So we drove over to the Dollar Store and picked up a nice pack of pencils with a paper back to the packaging.  I wrote a note on the back addressed to the student.  I told her these pencils were a gift and that she is loved.  I also said if she ran out in a couple of weeks to let me know. After Tom gave her the pencils the girl stopped yelling at him and stopped asking to borrow his pencils.  She began to treat him more like a friend.

I can't imagine how lonely and stressful it must feel for a student who does not have pencils for class. Who hasn't had nightmares of being unprepared for class? This is many student's lived reality.  It was not expensive to help her and it made my son's educational environment more pleasant.

We may not be able to change the world but if there is one kid your child is complaining about ask about supplies and other needs. By reaching out we can change the timbre of our schools.

I do need to add the caveat that if your child is being threatened by a student you need to report that immediately and insist steps are taking to protect your student.  But for low level aggravations we have found sometimes the best way to be rid of a bully is to turn them into a friend or at least a friendly acquaintance.

Amazon is a nice place to stock up on school supplies.  I like these pencils because they use thicker lead that seems to be less prone to break.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Linux drive creation (temporary)

Step by step on how to create a drive:

1. Go to pendrive linux

-Do not click the top link -no “GETITNOW” it's click bate and will not give you what you need

Scroll down and find YUMI mid screen CLICK LINK

2. Scroll to mid page and download YUMI

3. Open a new tab
type and search in the top left corner for your distro

4. Choose your website and download the mirror
- It looks overwhelming Don't Panic

5. Scroll down to the bottom
- choose the last one that ends with .iso

6. Download that .iso file to your computer.
-This may take awhile
- when you have both yumi and your .iso downloaded you will be ready to create your thumb drive
-Through School internet it took almost an hour

7. Run Yumi- will ask choose drive= Drive E, never choose C (computer) if creating a USB drive
which distro version- choose downloaded one, which is xubuntu
Browse for dot ISO file, Open and will show up in Green

8. When it says installation is done CLICK NEXT

9. Choose NO- unless you plan to put more distros on your drive

10. Choose finish

Harpeth Hall Python Minecraft camp for girls

One of the challenges of increasing diversity in coding is recruiting young women to learn these skills.  This week Ellie Fitzpatrick and I ran a camp on how to program in Python. This is an all girls camp and we taught them the way we learn best, by incorporating creative coding opportunities.  We utilized both Processing 3 and webbing Minecraft to Python.

Ellie has lead a lunchtime coding club at her school, Harpeth Hall, for 3 years.  As a seasoned Python tutor she learned to use innovative coding examples that engage girl's imaginations and make them think critically.  This week we covered the basics and much more. Our curriculum included:data types, lists, dictionaries, loops, functions, objects, and attributes by creating 'fish stores', 'big fluffy dog functions', and auto building in Minecraft.

 By Friday, these young women had designed their own project.  All are solving problems with their programs and creating unique code to perform their selected tasks.  This programming class has morphed into an coding art creation event.  Our youngest coder is working on the variables so she can move the doors and windows populating into her world from Python.  She has spent the entire day on this project.  Girls who learn to code in this manner learn persistence.

Our young women who took our class told us that there were some things that helped them. These requests set them apart from mixed gender groups.  Handwriting notes was one of the things they requested to do often.  Although I would not let them entirely write because working in the IDE and getting error feed back is important, note taking was calming for them and helped them with retention. They also reported sublime text was beneficial because Bella told us that 'the colors help her see different parts of the code'.  All agreed the colors helped them know if they had saved their file as a .py  and it was pretty.

We were all so involved in the coding projects on Friday we were an hour late to lunch.  Not one person was waiting time checking email or playing video games.  They were serious about learning and making their code function.  Highly successful camp for our girls.  I learned as much about teaching girls to code as they learned about code.  Thank you to Harpeth Hall for providing the space and to WITT for sponsoring our work.

We used this reference to help build our camp:

Ellie's favorite reference book to learn Python is:

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

One Million New Tech Positions and Few Free Paths in Public Ed - Amy Flatt

Our economy is changing.  Many people in the recording, manufacturing, and other industries are losing their positions due to automation and new, less-expensive, technologies.  These new technologies mean you no longer need a big recording studio to produce a record or an MP3. Several recording studios in Nashville were shuttered in the last few years.

Manufacturing is not leaving the US but it's sector is shrinking.  Fortunately, there are parts of the market that are growing, like the tech industry.  Right now the United States is not positioned to take advantage of the opportunities.  Coding and other technologies are a core skill set for our age similar to Math, and Literacy.  Our teachers are constantly trained on how to teach Mathematics and Literacy and integrate them into other subjects.  However, here are few if any Professional Development opportunities for teachers to learn Coding, Info Sec, or even information about the components of the computer/how to hook it up.

Last week, I taught a class on the Unity Engine and Game Development to a group of Middle and High School students.  Half way through the week the students began talking about how to troll a teacher.  The school computers are typically slow.  The students have taken to suggesting the teachers, "Download more RAM."  Which is a little like telling someone their blinker fluid is low.  The students reported that teachers have googled "download more RAM". If the teachers had replaced RAM in a computer they would know it's a physical thing you can hold in your hands not something to download.

So our teachers are mostly unprepared to integrate tech teaching in our schools and our students are not preparing to take these jobs in the future.  Students, who are interested, are encouraged to go on line and "figure it out".  Although there are many great websites and books to teach students coding, could you imagine what it would be like if we took the same approach to Math instruction?  Granted there are many good resources online but that is not the path to have a well educated population.  Our approach to teaching tech must change.

Great Britain has instituted a plan where every child starting, at 5 years old, will learn how to code.  The US is trying to catch up.  The Whitehouse is earmarking funds but we also need a plan similar to GB to make sure that all teachers and students have the basic knowledge to take part in the 21st century.  We need to think towards the next ten years so we can continue to have a strong, vibrant economy.  Tech learning must become integrated, have a measurable plan, along with strong Professional Training Program for our teachers so they can do what they do best, teach!

Cool Tool of the Week